New MTR line a cause for celebration
It goes without saying that the availability of speedy and punctual public transport services has a significant impact on the livelihoods and well-being of residents in an area. The excitement many residents of and commuters to Hong Kong’s Southern District demonstrated on Wednesday morning as the much anticipated MTR South Island Line began operations is a testament to this notion. They have every reason to be excited about the opening of the South Island Line, which they have eagerly waited for nine years since the project was first confirmed. It has had its completion date postponed twice.
Because of the traffic bottleneck between the Cross-Harbour Tunnel and the Happy Valley area, taking a bus during rush-hour road traffic in the morning and evening is a daunting task for residents of and workers in the Southern District. They can easily be trapped on the road for hours, especially when a traffic accident happens.
The opening of the South Island Line train service, which takes only 11 minutes from end to end between Admiralty and South Horizons, offers commuters in the district a reliable alternative to beat the terrible traffic congestion that has been a daily experience for them. The aggregate amount of traffic time to be saved, and therefore the economic benefits to be created, could be huge, considering that the new line would serve up to 170,000 pas- sengers per day according to the estimate of MTR Corporation. Indeed, some commuters observed on Wednesday that they saved as much as 30 minutes by switching to MTR service from bus service.
Motorists and other commuters who do not take MTR trains will also benefit from the opening of the Southern Island Line in terms of easing traffic congestion. With the availability of the new railway line, road public transport services serving commuters in the Southern District will very likely be reduced soon in response to lower demand.
The Transport Department has indicated that it would review around 20 bus routes for possible restructuring, consolidation or cancellation within six months. That is perfectly logical. But it must take into consideration the reasonable concern of some residents — particularly those living in nearby areas not covered by the Southern Island Line stations such as Aberdeen, Tin Wan, Wah Kwai and Wah Fu — that the anticipated reduction in bus services will not cause them inconvenience or increase their transportation fares.
Wednesday’s opening of the Southern Island Line, which operates a fleet of 10 three-car driverless trains manufactured by the CRRC Changchun Railway Vehicles Co, has also been hailed as a milestone in China’s railway technology development, as the line is the first in the country to use domestically developed and produced driverless subway trains.