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LCQ3: Additional demand for railway services

     Following is a question by the Hon Tony Tse and a reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, in the Legislative Council today (December 17):


     The MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL) announced last month that the West Island Line (WIL), which is an extension of the MTR Island Line to Kennedy Town, would be partially commissioned at the end of this month, and that the Sai Ying Pun Station of WIL was expected to be ready for use in the first quarter of next year.  Some members of the public have expressed the concern that as the train compartments are already very crowded at present, the commissioning of WIL may worsen the situation.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it knows, during the period from the beginning of the road occupation on September 28 this year to 15th of this month, the daily average patronage, the respective daily average patronages during the morning and the afternoon peak hours in respect of each railway line (except for the Disneyland Resort Line, and the same exception applies below), as well as the daily average passenger flow at each interchange station; how such figures compare with those for the period from September 1 to 27 this year; whether MTRCL has formulated any measure to alleviate the pressure on its passenger services in the event of occurrences of similar road occupation incidents in future;

(2) whether it knows if MTRCL has assessed the impacts of the commissioning of WIL on the patronage of the various railway lines and the passenger flow at various interchange stations before the end of the road occupation; if MTRCL has assessed, of the outcome and what corresponding measures it has put in place; if MTRCL has not assessed, the reasons for that, and how MTRCL ensures that its passenger services, railway station facilities and manpower resources, etc., are adequate to cope with the increase in patronage; and

(3) given that the road occupation in Admiralty is one of the causes for the delay in the Admiralty Station extension works, whether it knows if MTRCL has assessed how the passenger flow at the Admiralty Station upon the commissioning of WIL at the end of this month will compare with the current figure and with the original estimate for the initial operation stage of WIL respectively; if MTRCL has assessed, of the outcome and the measures to alleviate the crowdedness at the Admiralty Station (especially at the train platforms) before the completion of the extension works for the Station; whether MTRCL has assessed the impacts of offering fare concessions to passengers travelling from the Sheung Wan Station or WIL's HKU Station on the railway patronage and passenger flow (particularly at the Admiralty Station); if MTRCL has not assessed, the reasons for that?


Acting President,

     My reply to the various parts of the Hon Tony Tse's question is as follows.

     The "Occupy Central" movement ended on December 15 this year. During the movement, some roads were occupied and road-based public transport services were affected.  MTR heavy rail services recorded an increase in number of passengers during the period.  The weekday patronage of MTR heavy rail network from September 1 to December 15 this year is at Annex.  The average weekday daily patronage of heavy rail during the first four weeks, the peak period since the beginning of the "Occupy Central" movement (i.e. from September 28 to October 25), was about 5.34 million.  This was 10 per cent higher than that from September 1 to 27  (i.e. before the "Occupy Central" movement) of about 4.85 million.  But, the average weekday daily patronage of heavy rail during the subsequent seven weeks (i.e. from October 26 to December 15) dropped to about 5.11 million, though still about 5 per cent higher than that before the "Occupy Central" movement.  

     As there is no gate admission record of passengers using interchange stations (such as interchange to Tsuen Wan Line or Kwun Tong Line at Mong Kok Station), the MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL) advises that it is unable to provide the passenger flow statistics of interchange stations.  

     Without compromising railway safety and apart from continuing to run at 2 minutes headway during morning peak hours (normally from 7.15am to about 9.15am), the MTRCL also enhanced train services at other hours as necessary during the "Occupy Central" movement.  

     Regarding staff deployment, on top of the 2 800 frontline operations staff rostered on duty each day, the MTRCL has deployed about 400 additional staff (including temporary staff and staff from other departments) to strengthen passenger service and handle disruptions due to unforeseen circumstances.  Most of them were at stations with higher volume of passenger flow to assist passengers and maintain station order.  Having regard to the actual situation, the MTRCL also implemented further passenger flow management measures including maintaining single direction passenger flow at station exits and concourses, limiting number of passengers waiting at platforms, and diverting passengers to less crowded areas of platforms and concourses to ensure smooth train operation and passenger safety.

     Further, the MTRCL's Infrastructure Maintenance Rapid Response Unit and Rolling Stock Rapid Response Unit have deployed additional manpower to station at different positions of the railway network strategically.  They could be the first on the scene of any equipment failure to start recovery work with a view to minimising impact of any disruption.

     Acting President, according to the assessment carried out by the Transport Department (TD) and the MTRCL on the impact of the West Island Line (WIL) to be commissioned at the end of this month, the new patronage brought by the WIL during the morning peak hours will be generated mainly by commuters going northward from Island West to Kowloon or the New Territories areas via the Tsuen Wan Line (TWL) and those heading eastward for Island East via the Island Line (ISL).  Currently, passenger movements of the TWL and ISL are mainly southward and westward respectively toward Central in the morning peak hours.  Hence, these two major passenger flows go just in the opposite directions.  In the evening peak hours, commuters of the WIL also move in the other direction of the major passenger flows of the TWL and ISL.  Despite there being an increase brought by the commissioning of the WIL to the overall passenger trips along the ISL, the impact on the passenger flows should not be significant.

     WIL passengers can interchange at Central Station for journeys to and from Kowloon via the TWL.  This interchange arrangement is no different from the existing one for switching to the TWL at Central Station from Sheung Wan Station or the other way round.  As such, the MTRCL expects that the commissioning of the WIL (including concessionary arrangements for passengers) will not significantly affect the interchange passenger flow at the platforms of Admiralty Station.  That said, the MTRCL will continue to enhance platform management at Admiralty Station to maintain smooth circulation of passengers, with a view to alleviating crowdedness during peak hours at the station.  

     To tie in with the commissioning of the WIL, the MTRCL has deployed operating staff to work at the new stations since September this year to undergo relevant training and prepare the stations for operation.  In addition, the MTRCL will deploy mobile service teams which are familiarised with the neighbourhood at critical locations such as concourses, platforms and major walkways of the stations to help passengers with direction and other service information during the initial operation of the WIL.

     The expansion works at Admiralty Station are underway to tie in with the South Island Line (East) (SIL(E)) works.  We have reported the challenges faced by the SIL(E) works and the reasons for progress delay in the paper submitted to the Subcommittee on Matters Relating to Railways of the Legislative Council in November this year.  According to the information provided by the MTRCL, the "Occupy Central" movement, though not a major reason for delay, has indeed affected the expansion works at Admiralty Station.

Ends/Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Issued at HKT 14:38


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