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LCQ11: Barrier-free facilities at MTR stations
     Following is a question by the Hon Paul Tse and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Mr Frank Chan Fan, in the Legislative Council today (November 15):


     Quite a number of members of the public have criticised that the Government's transport policy of designating railway as the backbone of the public transport system has caused the MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL) rising to dominance, which in turn has resulted in MTRCL losing keenness to improve its facilities and services and frequently shirking its responsibilities through public relations tactics.  As a result, the situation of MTRCL's services being "aligned with those of the Link" has become increasingly serious.  A number of members from different District Councils (DCs), local organisations and the public have relayed that as MTRCL and the relevant government departments have been passing the buck to each other over the years and ignoring their suggestions for improving station facilities, quite a number of stations are still not equipped with appropriate facilities for the convenience of passengers.  For instance, Lam Tin Station Exits A and D, which lead to a number of housing estates and shopping malls, are not yet equipped with barrier-free access; the noise problems at Ngau Tau Kok Station and Kowloon Bay Station are not yet resolved; the stair lift installed at the staircase between Kowloon Bay Station Exit A and the adjoining footbridge is frequently out of order, leaving wheelchair users trapped helplessly on the stair lift from time to time and forcing passengers with strollers to carry the strollers with them while walking up or down the stairs, which is very dangerous, and yet DC members' requests made over the years for retrofitting ramps there are all in vain; the proposals of retrofitting a cover for the barrier-free access outside Yau Tong Station Exit B and Lok Fu Station Exit A have also remained in a standstill for a long time due to land title issues.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the mechanism put in place to ensure that MTRCL will provide and continuously improve the barrier-free facilities at its various station exits and other facilities for the convenience of passengers;

(2) whether it will set up a unit, with an operation mode similar to that of the Energizing Kowloon East Office, to take charge of the coordination between MTRCL and the relevant government departments, and actively study the relevant views put forward by passengers and DCs, with a view to enhancing barrier-free facilities at station exits and other facilities for the convenience of passengers; and

(3) given the comment that there is a trend of MTRCL's services becoming "aligned with those of the Link", of the policies the authorities have in place to drive MTRCL to listen and respond actively to passengers' aspirations?



     My consolidated responses to various parts of the question raised by Hon Paul Tse are as follows:
     Public transport services are closely related to the daily life of the public.  Every day, over 12 million passenger trips are made through public transport services in Hong Kong.  This accounts for nearly 90 per cent of the daily total passenger trips in the city, which is the highest in the world.  Since Hong Kong is a small and densely populated city with limited road space, and the public are concerned about the impact of road traffic on air quality, we will continue to adopt the public transport-oriented policy with railway as its backbone.  However, the railway is not hegemonic.  The Government has all along been committed to providing convenient, reliable and diversified public transport services to the community.  Other public transport services (including franchised buses, public light buses, non-franchised buses, taxis, ferry services and trams) will continue to play an important role in complementing railway services and provide more commuting options to meet the needs of the public.
     The MTR network carries more than five million passenger trips per day.  The MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL) being the sole operator of railway service, performs important social functions, and cannot be regarded as an ordinary profit-making commercial entity.  For maintaining the quality of railway service, the MTRCL invests billions of dollars (Note 1) annually in enhancing, revitalising and maintaining its railway assets and infrastructure, including the enhancement of station facilities and barrier-free accesses.  The MTRCL attaches significant importance to service improvement suggestions proposed by different passengers and communities and maintains contact with relevant Government departments.  The MTRCL has been listening to passengers' views collected in different forms and via various channels.  These include conducting questionnaire surveys regularly, participating in Legislative Council and District Council meetings and inviting passengers to take part in focus group discussions etc.  The Government has also been proactively carrying out its duty as the Corporation's majority shareholder by reflecting to the Board of the MTRCL the common concerns of the community on MTR operations from time to time. 
     Currently, all MTR stations are equipped with at least one barrier-free access, such as passenger lifts connecting the concourse and the street level, ramps, stair lifts and wheelchair aids.  Subject to actual circumstances, the MTRCL will also install passenger lifts or vertical platform lifts, at the three stations which have not been installed with passenger lifts, connecting station concourses with the street level (Note 2).  When constructing new railways, passenger lifts connecting station platform, concourse and street level will be regular items, subject to the objective environment.  In April this year, the MTRCL also reported its progress in upgrading station facilities over the past year to the Legislative Council Subcommittee on Matters Relating to Railways (please refer to Legislative Council paper No. CB(4)890/16-17(05) ).
     Since April and till now, the upgrading works of various core facilities in MTR stations have been progressing well.  Among them, the replacement projects of passenger lifts in three stations, namely Fanling Station, Quarry Bay Station and Causeway Bay Station, have been completed.  Major refurbishment works on escalators in Shau Kei Wan Station, Sheung Wan Station, Fortress Hill Station, Quarry Bay Station, Sai Wan Ho Station and Yau Ma Tei Station have also been completed.  Besides, works commenced in Tiu Keng Leng Station last month for installation of toilets, while similar works in Yau Tong Station will commence by the end of this year, both targeted for completion in the first half of 2019.  During the works period of every station facility upgrading projects, the MTRCL will post notices to inform passengers of relevant arrangements.  Besides, the MTRCL will also deploy staff to assist passengers as and when needed, so as to ensure that the passenger flow at the station will remain smooth.  The Government will continue to urge the MTRCL to listen to the community's views with a view to further enhancing railway service.
     From time to time, the local community put up suggestions to the Government departments and the MTRCL on upgrading community facilities, such as the passageway leading to MTR stations.  The Government departments and the MTRCL will continue to listen to the community's views and respond to their requests as far as possible, where resources allow and after taking into account factors, such as the needs of the members of the community, technical conditions and the actual circumstances of individual cases.  The details of individual facilities nearby MTR stations raised in Hon Tse's questions are in Annex.
Note 1: The MTRCL invested over 6 billion dollars in 2014 in enhancing, revitalising and maintaining its railway assets and infrastructure. This investment has increased significantly per year to over 8 billion dollars in 2016, which accounts for more than 40 per cent of the 17.7 billion dollars revenue from the Corporation's Hong Kong transport operations.
Note 2: Currently, the stations without passenger lift connecting the station concourse and ground level are Diamond Hill, Fortress Hill and Tin Hau stations. For Diamond Hill Station, installation of lift is now underway alongside the construction works of the Shatin-to-Central Link. For Fortress Hill Station, the MTRCL plans to build a passenger lift connecting the station concourse and street level and is exploring with relevant Government departments the synergy effect of MTR Fortress Hill Station lift works and the Government's proposed construction of a "Braemar Hill Pedestrian Link".  As to Tin Hau Station, the MTRCL plans to install a vertical platform lift at Exit B near the staircase, connecting the station concourse and the King's Road and add three escalators at Exit A of the station.  The relevant works are expected to commence in mid-2018 and be completed by 2021.
Ends/Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Issued at HKT 15:00
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