There was a time, not too long ago, when Hong Kong’s public transport system used to be a source of pride for our people.
But look at all the top headlines of local newspapers and news websites over the past couple of weeks: they’re all about our malfunctioning public transport system.
First, the previously ever-reliable, ever-efficient MTR broke down, bring widespread chaos to rush-hour commuters.
These past few months, signaling problems have become so frequent that they’re no longer news, but for four MTR lines to be affected simultaneously – computer glitch or whatever was the reason – is certainly unacceptable.
In a move to placate the public, the MTR management is offering half-price fares for all passengers, and not just senior citizens, this Saturday and Sunday. How cheap, many commuters cried: the discounts should be implemented on weekdays when people really need to take the MTR to get to work. However, it’s definitely good news for our maids, who are off on weekends.
Even acting Chief Executive Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, normally composed and diplomatic, sniffed at the rail operator’s feeble attempt to console the riding public. He said the MTR should listen to what the people want.
Cheung also expressed deep concern over the massive data leak at Cathay Pacific, which has angered even more people because of the airline’s decision to tell them about it only after seven long months. Police and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data are now investigating the delayed disclosure.
Worse still, there is no talk of compensation for the airline management’s colossal blunder, leaving millions of passengers fuming while feeling helpless.
As if that were not enough, there’s another breakdown of transport service this Sunday. Thousands of passengers returning to the city via the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge were kept waiting for hours at the border because there were too few buses at the port facilities.
Cheung said the Sunday’s passenger throughput was about 78,000, more than double the average volume of 35,000.
Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan said he has been talking with bus operators plying the routes to improve their service.
Fortunately, there’s no bad news this time about the operation of the high-speed rail, which was inaugurated more than a month ago. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.
With all the troubles happening on the local front, Chan supports the proposal to have his housing and transport portfolios split. It certainly is hard to juggle two hot potatoes.
Seriously, the job should be handled by at least four talented government officials, if not more.
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