It is well recognised that a successful transport network can play an enormous role in the socio-economic development of a society. Across the Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific, countries are busily engaged in infrastructure projects designed to achieve just that goal.
In Hong Kong however, that ambition has already come to fruition and has recently received an enormous accolade.
In November 2013, the World Bank Forum, held in Beijing, gave public recognition to the MTR Rail Plus Community Model.
The MTR Corporation was established in 1975 as the Mass Transit Railway Corporation with a mission to construct and operate, under prudent commercial principles, an urban metro system to help meet Hong Kong’s public transport requirements. The sole shareholder at that time was the Hong Kong Government.
The company was re-established as the MTR Corporation Limited in June 2000 after the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government sold 23 per cent of its issued share capital to private investors in an Initial Public Offering. MTR Corporation shares were listed on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong on 5 October 2000.
In December of 2007, the operations of the remaining Government-owned rail operator, the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation, were amalgamated with MTR and today, the merged rail network consists of 9 railway lines which serve Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories. Furthermore, a Light Rail network serves the local communities of Tuen Mun and Yuen Long in the New Territories while a fleet of buses provide convenient feeder services.
A good illustration of the role that MTR’s services have played in bolstering the local economy, can be found in the corporation’s Airport Express service, which provides a high-speed link to Hong Kong International Airport as well as the city-s main exhibition and conference centre the AsiaWorld-Expo.
MTR has also provided excellent transport links between Hong Kong and Guangdong Province, Beijing and Shanghai, in Mainland China.
Little wonder then, that at the November Forum, city planners, transport experts and other public service professionals in Beijing gave special attention to MTR Corporation’s Rail plus Community Model as a successful example of transit-oriented development supporting a city’s rapid social and economic growth. The subject was a highlight at the World Bank conference on “Transforming Cities with Transit & Financing Transit with Land Values”.
“Our cities are being urbanized at an astounding rate and there is no question that proper infrastructure must be provided to ensure cities can continue to function effectively and people can continue to move around efficiently. By integrating the development of high quality communities with transit systems, Hong Kong provides a good model for many cities around the world on how to house large numbers of people into a very small space and make it work,” said Mr Hiroaki Suzuki, Lead Urban Specialist of World Bank.
“The greatest beauty of the MTR model is how it captures the economic value created by the railway infrastructure to fund transit operations in an ongoing and sustainable manner.”
Jay Walder, Chief Executive Officer of MTR Corporation stated: “As a result of the integrated development of communities with the railway, Hong Kong has the highest use of public transport in the world. Our system is not only financially sustainable, it is also environmentally sustainable. The railway is never short of funding for the essential maintenance, rehabilitation and expansion, and as the low-carbon backbone of our transport system, it brings direct health benefits.”
The MTR system caters for on average 5.1 million passengers every weekday across all of its services and is regarded as one of the world’s leading railways for safety, reliability, customer service and cost efficiency.
Over time, MTR Corporation has diversified into a variety of different business interests including the development of residential and commercial projects (which includes a range of shopping malls), property leasing and management, advertising, telecommunication services and international consultancy services.
In recent years, the business has also expanded its concerns into Mainland China, becoming involved in a range of railway-related projects and international consultancies.
Highlights include the construction of a number of metro lines on the mainland, and MTR now operates Beijing Metro Line 4 and Line 14, Shenzhen Metro Longhua Line and Hangzhou Metro Line 1. The corporation also operates the London Overground system in the United Kingdom, the Melbourne Train System in Australia and Stockholm Metro in Sweden.
Innovation has played an important part in MTR’s sustained success and the corporation’s trains operate for about 19 hours a day, 7 days a week, from early morning to 1am the next day.
Trains are operated with automatic signal control and protection systems which regulate the distance between trains, determine the optimal rates of acceleration and braking, as well as the coasting speeds on different sections of a line.
The planning of the service timetable puts a strong emphasis on passenger demand, taking into account the morning and evening peak hours on normal working days.
Even the queuing system comes in for consideration and in December 2013, the company announced that it was introducing a new trial at MTR Prince Edward Station, to test the effectiveness of passenger flow and train services at busy stations.
Normally, passengers waiting for trains follow the arrows to line up on the two sides of the platform screen doors and allow alighting passengers to exit down the middle.
However, under the trial, boarding passengers will be guided to line up on the right side of the platform screen doors while those alighting from trains will exit on the left-hand side.
“This new system is being tested under our Listening·Responding programme. Passengers have commented that the current platform queuing arrangement, especially at busy interchange stations, creates conflicting movements which slows them down getting on and off trains,” said Dr Jacob Kam, Operations Director of MTR Corporation.
“We hope this new queuing system will improve the situation, helping us to provide our passengers with a more comfortable journey and it will also allow trains to move more efficiently in and out of stations.”
Such care and attention to detail – aligned with customer feedback, has helped to shape MTR Corporation into one of the world’s foremost rail providers.