All 400 payphones in MTR stations to be removed amid low usage

December 29, 2015 11:21
Nearly 400 payphone consoles in 87 MTR stations will be removed as the contract with the service provider is set to expire at the end of the month. Photo: Chiu Yan Loy/Facebook

MTR Corp. has announced that all payphones installed inside MTR stations will be removed as the contract with service provider Shinetown Telecom is set to expire at the end of this month, Ming Pao Daily reported on Tuesday.

A Shinetown Telecom spokesperson said it has no alternative but to terminate the service as usage of payphones has dropped by 60 percent over the last six years.

The service could no longer be supported by the dwindling income, the spokesperson said.

MTR confirmed that 390 payphone consoles in 87 MTR stations will be removed gradually and no other service provider is willing to provide the service.

The train operator said it would consider resuming payphone services in the future should a contractor express an interest in taking up the job.

Shinetown Telecom executive director Fan Rongyao said the removal of payphones in MTR stations marked the end of an era.

However, since payphone service is the core business of the company, Shinetown has no plans to give up on the other 100 payphones installed in shopping arcades and schools.

Fan said an average of only 20 calls are being made each day at the busiest MTR station and not a single call is made at the Racecourse station, which only opens twice a week.

Fan said payphones are like electric fans: while there are people still using them, the volume of business is not sufficient to keep a company alive.

At one point, Shinetown was providing over 2,000 payphones across Hong Kong, but the income from the service now only makes up 1 percent of the company’s total revenue.

Legislator Michael Tien said he understands that the use of payphones is “outrageously low” and it is impossible for the service to be self-sustainable.

Tien called on the MTR management to make good use of the space vacated by the payphone consoles, such as by replacing them with ATM machines or mobile phone charging devices.

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