MTR has “monopolised” transport in North West New Territories, leaving residents with little mobility choice, according to a Tuen Mun District Councillor and Convenor of a new Working Group to study transport problems in the area.
Poon Chi-kin says transport in the northwest New Territories relies heavily on the MTR’s West Rail Line and the 11 Light Rail routes. “There are not too many means of transportation that residents in North-west New Territories can choose from, they mainly take the railway to travel within the district,” he says. “Even housewives going to the market to buy food have to use the railway.”
The problem was aggravated, says Poon, at the height of the city-wide protests and riots in 2019. “MTR had closed many West Rail stations at that time. Residents literally became stuck in this situation. They simply couldn’t go anywhere as the railway has become almost their only means of transportation. We see the problem, so we want to end the problem. This is the reason why this working group has been formed.”
MTR closures became a fact of life last year, with the rail operator suspending all services citywide on 5 October, claiming “malicious vandalism” made safe operation impossible. Hundreds of MTR stations were damaged over the second half of 2019, with 60 of 68 Light Rail stations damaged to some degree and a network-wide repair bill of around HK$10.5 million, according to Secretary for Security John Lee.
Poon says he has joined forces with Yuen Long District Councillors to set up a joint Working Group to tackle transportation issues. He says the group is yet to meet, but will focus on solutions such as more minibus routes. “And we also want buses that connect NW New Territories and other districts to have more stops within NW New Territories, especially to have stops in residential areas and the three hospitals, namely, Tuen Mun Hospital, Pok Oi Hospital and also Tin Shui Wai Hospital,” he says.
At present, Tuen Mun Hospital is served by seven major bus routes and two minibus routes, as well as two Light Rail lines.
Poon’s project comes as the government announces a HK$28 billion rail extension, which will extend the West Rail Line from Tuen Mun to a new station at Tuen Mun Ferry Pier, and add a new station in between. The government says the extension will save commuters around six million commuting hours a year when it’s completed in 2030.