Rail freight has dwindled to almost nothing since a high-profile launch by Carrie Lam in early March

Hong Kong’s new rail freight service has dwindled to almost nothing since its high-profile launch, with just 21 tonnes shipped into the city by rail in the last seven days.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam (brown jacket) welcomed the first freight train to Hong Kong on 2 March – weeks later, the service would be replaced largely by trucks

Christened by the Chief Executive Carrie Lam on 2 March as part of a campaign to stabilize the supply of goods and medicines into Hong Kong, the service initially brought in around 400 tonnes a week on up to two daily services, the first rail freight to enter Hong Kong in over 10 years.

The government had said it would assess whether rail freight could be increased as the service developed.

But seven weeks later, the tonnage had dropped dramatically, with only two trains a week running in April and a decimated capacity in terms of containers and tonnage.

For the week ending 19 April, just two trains brought in a total of 10 containers.

The government says a “range of factors” affect use of trains.

“Train operations may be considered as being less flexible than trucks given that trains need to operate on fixed schedule and route,” a Transport and Housing Bureau spokesperson told Transit Jam.

“These considerations have affected the attractiveness of train operations to customers”.

The government says it has been working on a trial run of a new truck cargo transfer service at Kam Pok Road in San Tin to ensure “smooth cross-boundary land transport”.

There’s around 9,000 trucks entering Hong Kong from the mainland daily.

Sea transport has also stepped up during the pandemic, with around 50 ship arrivals a day from three ports in Shenzhen, bringing in around 20-25,000 tonnes of supplies.

Rail freight had all but disappeared from Hong Kong by 2010, but at its peak in 1987 the equivalent of around 200,000 20-foot containers were shipped into the city. MTR exited the freight business in 2009.

In terms of environment, rail is much cleaner and more efficient than road transport. According to the American Association of Railroads, freight trains can move a tonne of freight 480 miles on one gallon of fuel.

Categories: Policy, Transit

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