Hong Kong Travel & Transport

Launch of Hong Kong’s high-speed rail service marred by delays and ticketing confusion

The newly opened high-speed railway suffered delays and confusion over ticketing arrangements on Sunday, despite receiving fewer passengers than the rail operator’s estimate.

The Hong Kong section of the controversial Express Rail Link commenced service on Sunday. The Immigration Department reported that 75,517 people passed through the checkpoints at West Kowloon station – under the MTR Corporation’s forecast of 80,000 daily passengers on average.

Express Rail Link adi lau

MTR Operations Director Adi Lau (left). Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

The MTRC also said 71,000 tickets to and from Hong Kong were sold on the first day, taking the total number of tickets sold to 300,000 so far.

See also: Mixed reactions on first day of high-speed railway connecting Hong Kong to China

On Sunday, passengers complained of multiple train delays and inadequate service at the West Kowloon terminus, which led to overcrowding and long wait times.

MTRC Operations Director Adi Lau said on Sunday that first day of train operations were “mostly smooth,” but refused to disclose the number of delayed trains or the extent of delay.

XRL first train shenzhen

The first train of the Express Rail Link after arriving at Shenzhen. Photo: Jennifer Creery/HKFP.

A train which left Shenzhen North station at 11:02am heading for Hong Kong suffered a power outage in a tunnel, with lights and air conditioning turned off for around eight minutes.

Lau acknowledged the incident and attributed it to an “instability issue” with electrical equipment. The electricity supply was cut due to a safety measure, which was triggered when too many trains were accelerating at the same time, he said.

He added that some trains were delayed because of rain between Guangzhou South station and Humen station.

Express Rail Link first day

Photo: Jennifer Creery/HKFP.

Local media reported that multiple trains were late in departing from and arriving at the West Kowloon terminus, with one train to Shanghai being delayed 25 minutes before departure.

Ticketing confusion

Some passengers also criticised the arrangement for ticket sales on Sunday. Express Rail tickets can be purchased online, but the mainland website – www.12306.cn – works separately from the Hong Kong website.

The MTRC arranged five counters at the West Kowloon terminus for passengers to retrieve tickets which they had bought on the mainland ticketing site or by phone, since the function was not compatible with the automatic ticketing machines.

Express Rail Link first day

Photo: Jennifer Creery/HKFP.

Queues of over two hundred people were reported in the afternoon, with some passengers waiting up to two hours to get their tickets printed.

Other inconsistencies between mainland and Hong Kong ticketing systems were also reported, with some passengers reporting difficulties while leaving a mainland station with a ticket printed in Hong Kong.

Lau said on Monday that service counters for online buyers had been increased to seven, and that MTRC was liaising with the mainland rail authority to improve compatibility.

Facility problems

On Monday morning, rainwater was found to be dripping from the roof at the West Kowloon terminus whilst the Amber Rainstorm Warning Signal was in effect.

mainland port area West Kowloon terminus

The train waiting area inside the mainland port area of the West Kowloon terminus. Photo: HKFP.

Lau said the arrival of typhoon Mangkhut last week was a “big test” for the station, and that the water seepage had no impact on station structure or train operations.

The 26-kilometre-long railway cost HK$86.4 billion and took more than eight years to complete.

Launch of Hong Kong's high-speed rail service marred by delays and ticketing confusion