25 April 2019
Passengers take pictures of the first Vibrant Express train to start service on Sunday. Photo: China News Service
Passengers take pictures of the first Vibrant Express train to start service on Sunday. Photo: China News Service

XRL serves over 71,000 on first day amid ticketing chaos

The Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link (XRL) opened its service to the public on Sunday, connecting Hong Kong to the national high-speed rail network that covers 25,000 kilometers in total.

The first Vibrant Express, the name of the XRL train that runs between Hong Kong and Guangzhou via Shenzhen, departed from the West Kowloon Station at 7 a.m. and finished its journey at Shenzhen North Station in 19 minutes as scheduled.

MTR Corp., which spent eight years and as much as HK$84.4 billion building the 26-km-long Hong Kong section of the XRL, said a total of 71,000 tickets were sold in Hong Kong and the mainland for the first day of service of Vibrant Express as of 5:30 p.m. Sunday, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The number was close to 90 percent of the government’s estimate of a daily average of 80,000.

Adi Lau Tin-shing, MTR’s operations director, said MTR and China Railway Corp. have together sold about 300,000 XRL tickets so far, including the 71,000 tickets for Sunday.

Hosting a celebration at the station concourse with MTR chairman Frederick Ma Si-hang and other MTR officials, Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan revealed that it took 18 years for the rail link project to be realized starting from its conception.

Chan described the opening of the service as the beginning of a new life that needs to be cherished and supported by everyone.

While the first Vibrant Express arrived at Shenzhen North Station on time, it was found that several other trains encountered delays.

For example, HKEJ reporters took the first train starting at the West Kowloon Station and arrived at Guangzhou South Station seven minutes late. At night, there was also a southbound train arriving at the West Kowloon Station with a delay of 16 minutes.

Lau said a Vibrant Express train was forced to stop for almost 10 minutes in a tunnel at around 11 a.m. due to unstable power supply in the tunnel, and a few others suffered delays because of rain between Guangzhou South Station and Humen Station that forced them to run only at a maximum speed of 120 kilometers per hour.

Ticketing chaos was reported at the West Kowloon Station, with quite a number of passengers complaining that they could not use a Home Visit Permit to obtain tickets from the ticket dispensing machines after having ordered them from the mainland’s official ticketing website. As a result, they had to join a long line to get their tickets at one of the only five counters set up in the station.

Explaining why the situation happened, MTR’s head of operations Francis Li Shing-kee said the ticketing systems of Hong Kong and the mainland still need some time to be fully merged, saying MTR and China Railway Corp. would have to discuss how to further improve services.

Aside from the problems related to ticketing, a passenger complained that luggage restrictions at the Hong Kong port were too rigid, saying that traveling by XRL was even more inconvenient than taking a plane.

Lau said MTR will review the current restrictions and step up efforts to enhance the public awareness of the matter.

Meanwhile, HKEJ reporters noted that quite a number of XRL passengers arriving in Hong King carried trunks of sizes exceeding MTR’s rules, which require that the total dimensions (length + width + height) must not exceed 130 centimeters.

After inspecting the West Kowloon Station at 7:45 p.m. Sunday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor told media that the XRL’s overall operation on its first day of service was smooth.

While admitting that there were some teething problems, Lam said MTR was trying its best to resolve them and will continue to see how to make improvements. She urged the public to be a bit more tolerant and patient.

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A huge crowd descends on the West Kowloon Station for the opening of the Express Rail Link. Photo: HKEJ

Passengers from the mainland exit the gate at the West Kowloon Station. Photo: HKEJ

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