Passengers queued for hours on Monday at the West Kowloon terminus of the high-speed rail before they could get their hands on tickets.
Ticket sales for the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link started at the station at 8am, four hours before online and phone sales started at noon.
At 5:30am, most of the first hundred people lining up for tickets were reporters. Those lining up were allowed to enter the West Kowloon station at around 7:30am, and HKFP was able to purchase tickets about an hour and fifteen minutes later.
Mr Leung, the first non-reporter to buy four sets of return tickets to Shenzhen North for him and his family, told HKFP that he thought the queue moved slowly and that the staff seemed unfamiliar with the computer ticketing system. It took him around 20 minutes to get his ticket.
“It was a bit slow. There were so many counters, but it did not seem to be running smoothly,” he said, adding that he was pleased with the outcome overall.
The MTRC initially did not allow passengers to buy tickets via automatic ticketing machines, but they were able to do so around an hour after sales started.
Mr Wong, a passenger hoping to buy a ticket to Guangzhou South, queued for three hours until he was able to use the ticketing machine.
It took about five minutes to use the machine and the Apple Pay function did not work, Wong said.
@mtrupdate Terribly underestimated staffing demand on ticket sales for HSR. At 9:30am, 172 customers have been served with more than 600 numbers issued. Waiting time 3 hours. #MTR #HSR Clearly the MTR doesn’t care about elderly customers waiting in line & treated like cattle. pic.twitter.com/vSb66QeRRw
— Anthony (@AAinHongKong) September 10, 2018
MTR Corporation Operations Director Adi Lau admitted that it took longer than expected for some passengers to buy tickets.
“When [staff] scanned their home return permits, maybe some information was not correct, so the staff had to cancel the ticketing process and the credit card payment and start over again, which took more time. This is a new system and the staff managing it are new, we will follow up and see how we can improve,” he said.
As of 11:30, Lau said some 1,200 tickets had been sold, but did not reveal how many were purchased by media.
The MTRC previously advised passengers to come to the station 45 minutes before departure.
Asked if passengers should arrive earlier to account for the slow ticket sale process, Lau maintained that 45 minutes should be adequate.
“Maybe for long-haul trains which will be less frequent, they should reserve more time,” he said.
The controversial joint checkpoint arrangement has been implemented at the West Kowloon terminus, allowing the mainland to exercise jurisdiction in an area of some one million square feet.
Meanwhile, a major residential-commercial complex near West Kowloon terminus is believed to be sinking due to the construction of the rail station.
Cracks have been found in concrete walls in the upmarket Elements shopping centre and its attached high-rise residential development the Waterfront, which sits across the road from the station.
Additional Reporting: Holmes Chan.