HONG KONG - Hong Kong transport officials are discussing with their Chinese mainland counterparts how to make it more convenient for Hong Kong commuters to use the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link (XRL), the Hong Kong section of which is due to go into service next month.
We’re exploring the possibility of allowing Hong Kong passengers to register using their Home Return Permits and email addresses so that they can use the online ticket booking system
Frank Chan Fan, Secretary for Transport and Housing,
The measures include making it easier for passengers in Hong Kong to purchase train tickets online and offering price concessions during non-peak periods, according to Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan.
He said the HKSAR Government is talking to China Railway Corp (CRC) to enable commuters in the city to buy online tickets for travel to the mainland from the West Kowloon terminus, which will officially open on Sept 23.
To do this, CRC’s official ticket-booking website, 12306.cn, would have to be made available to Hong Kong passengers. While mainland commuters can just open an account using their ID numbers and email addresses, it’s difficult for Hong Kong residents to sign up without the identification document the online system recognizes.
“We’re exploring the possibility of allowing Hong Kong passengers to register using their Home Return Permits and email addresses so that they can use the online ticket booking system,” Chan said on Sunday.
He expected the arrangement to be finalized in six months or longer, by which time Hong Kong people would be able to buy tickets more conveniently. They could also check ticket availability and make purchases with a computer or mobile phone.
The prices of second-class XRL tickets were announced on Friday, ranging from 68 yuan (US$10) to travel from the West Kowloon terminus to Futian Station in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, to 1,077 yuan from Hong Kong to Beijing.
MTR Corp, which operates the Hong Kong section of the XRL, may launch some promotion programs, including price concessions, during non-peak travel periods and privileged fares for the elderly, Chan said.
He said MTR Corp will work very closely with the mainland authorities to adjust the fares in a timely manner to make the best use of the limited high-speed railway resources for the benefit of Hong Kong and its passengers.
The SAR government estimates that more than 80,000 passengers would travel on the XRL’s Hong Kong section daily in the initial stages. But, if demand goes up, there’s room and mechanism to increase passenger capacity, Chan said.
Initially, trains running on the Hong Kong section will have eight carriages, while those on the mainland, typically, will have 16 carriages. If the passenger volume rises, two eight-carriage trains could be connected to form a longer, 16-carriage train to offer more seats on a given route.
The SAR and the mainland have also agreed to split ticket revenues. Hong Kong is responsible for building and maintaining the 26-km XRL’s Hong Kong section, which makes up 18 percent of the 142-km journey from the West Kowloon terminus to Guangzhou South railway station. Under the arrangement, Hong Kong could take 112 yuan, or 45 percent, of the full fare of 248 yuan for the journey.
Hailing the new opportunities for various sectors in Hong Kong with the opening of the mega project, Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said on Sunday the XRL’s launch will mark a breakthrough in linking Hong Kong with the mainland, and boosting two-way flow of people, commerce, logistics and tourism.
The Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce said it expects the new rail link to create more trade and tourism opportunities.
Hong Kong people are eagerly looking forward to the XRL’s launch. On Saturday morning, some 20,000 free tickets provided by MTR for the public to visit the West Kowloon Station on Sept 1 and 2 were snapped up within two hours, leaving many who had queued in the early morning disappointed.
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