MTR Corporation is facing criticism over its plan to offer fare concessions this coming weekend as way of compensation for members of the public following a huge rail service disruption this month.
The fare concessions have been planned poorly, critics say, pointing out that the discounts on Saturday and Sunday won’t benefit millions of office-goers who had suffered the most on Oct. 16, when there was an unprecedented lengthy service breakdown on four MTR lines.
The fare concessions should have been offered on weekdays, and not the weekend, to compensate the people who bore the brunt of the service disruption two weeks ago, a lawmaker said, with some also complaining that the compensation was inadequate.
Adi Lau Tin-shing, MTR’s operations director, said on Monday at a meeting of the Legislative Council’s Subcommittee on Matters Relating to Railways that the company will offer fare concessions this Saturday and Sunday as a way of compensation for inconvenience caused by the almost simultaneous breakdown of four rail lines on Oct. 16.
According to Lau, adult Octopus card users will only have to pay child fares on the two days, while children, students, and senior citizens will be charged just HK$1 per trip regardless of destination.
However, several lawmakers attending the meeting criticized the fare reductions and the schedule, saying MTR is not really compensating those most affected, namely the working class, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun from political group Roundtable pointed out that most commuting workers will be off on Saturday and Sunday, so MTR will be compensating the wrong set of people as it offers discounts on holidays.
Given this, Tien — who is former chairman of the Legco’s railways panel — suggested that fare concessions be offered between Monday and Friday with 20 percent off the normal price.
In response, Lau said the two-day concessions involving over HK$30 million were decided after assessing potential risks and considering the possible number of additional passengers attracted by the one-time measure.
Noting that the premise is to maintain railway safety and order, Lau added that offering concessions on workdays may bring some problems in the form of added traffic, burdening the MTR system.
Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan said MTR’s use of the concessions as a token of apology is better than doing nothing.
On the morning of Oct. 16, MTR reduced train frequency on the Island, Tsuen Wan and Kwun Tong lines after detecting signaling failure. The Tseung Kwan O line also encountered similar problems.
Before normal services eventually resumed at around 11:45 am, chaotic scenes were seen at multiple MTR stations as a large number of commuters who relied on the four lines to go to work or school found themselves stranded on overcrowded platforms.
MTR’s Chief of Operations Engineering Tony Lee Kar-yun told the Legco railway subcommittee meeting Monday that two suppliers had provided the signal systems for the four lines. The two systems of the four lines are interconnected via sector computers.
Lee said initial investigations showed the service disruptions were not caused by update of the computer systems. However, the systems of the four lines have been delinked from one another for the time being to prevent such disaster from happening again, he said.
As MTR is facing a fine imposed by the government under the “service performance arrangement”, Chan said discussions on the matter are still underway, with the key point being whether the fine should be calculated on a line-by-line basis or on a cause-by-cause basis.
The government does not rule out the possibility of reviewing the existing mechanism if the final result fails to convince the public that it reflects the severity of the incident.
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