After years of delays and budget overruns, Hong Kong’s MTR Corporation launched its new (and priciest) cross-harbor extension of the East Rail line on Sunday. Hundreds of railway enthusiasts waited overnight in light rain to be the first ones to board the train at dawn.
The new section will extend the East Rail line to about 46 kilometers, with a total of 16 stations. Now that Admiralty station is a major interchange point for four railway lines, it won’t be as much of a hassle to change trains. Plus, travel time for people coming from the New Territories to Hong Kong’s financial hubs will be shorter.
Though some believe that this new section would be popular among citizens, some residents and concern groups said they didn’t think it would solve the problems at hand. A recent survey of residents in Kowloon City and Wong Tai Sin found that 82% don’t have faith that the new section will relieve traffic issues in their districts. Additionally, more than 65% said they probably won’t switch to using the rail line to cross the harbor.
“I have been waiting for this day for so long. This is like a post-DSE gift from the MTR,” said Jason Law, a 17-year-old railway fan. Law rose to internet fame after singing a song about the opening of the Tuen Ma line last year.
“This rail section has a strategic function,” said Chief Executive Carrie Lam, after taking a ride from Hung Hom to the new Exhibition Centre station. “I deeply believe that it will be highly popular among residents following its opening.”
“Residents have different transport needs. Not all of them look for a faster trip. Authorities and bus operators can discuss how to increase connecting bus routes with the MTR stations,” said Rex Lam, spokesperson of a joint concern group on public transport planning. “If authorities reduce bus services, bus passengers will suffer from a longer waiting time and overcrowding.”