HK ex­press rail makes his­toric de­but

Con­nec­tion to vast in­land net­work called ‘ex­traor­di­nary gift’ for na­tion

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - China - By LUO WEITENG in Hong Kong sophia@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

Fam­ily mem­bers stand for a photo

The much-awaited Hong Kong sec­tion of the Guangzhou-Shen­zhen-Hong Kong Ex­press Rail Link, or XRL, got off to a smooth start on Sun­day in what could amount to a big bang in the evo­lu­tion of the Guang­dong-Hong Kong-Ma­cao Greater Bay Area.

Top of­fi­cials from the Chi­nese main­land and Hong Kong had thrown their weight be­hind the im­pres­sive en­gi­neer­ing feat, which al­lows Asia’s fi­nan­cial cen­ter di­rect ac­cess to the coun­try’s mas­sive 25,000-kilo­me­ters of high-speed rail­ways — the largest net­work of its kind in the world.

“The XRL, as its name sug­gests, is part and par­cel of a pack­age of broader ef­forts to tie Hong Kong more closely than ever to the Bay Area and the rest of its mother coun­try,” Hong Kong’s Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Car­rie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said at a sum­mit in the city on Sun­day. “The dis­tance be­tween Hong Kong and the Chi­nese main­land, never far from the out­set, is about to get even closer.”

Lam ex­pressed her be­lief that the gi­gan­tic in­fra­struc­ture pro­ject her­alds the ar­rival of a new life­style for pas­sen­gers to and from the Hong Kong Spe­cial Ad­min­is­tra­tive Re­gion.

A liv­ing ex­am­ple is Min­is­ter of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy Wang Zhi­gang, who was sched­uled to wrap up a busi­ness trip in Hong Kong on Sun­day and was ea­ger to take the bul­let train to Guangzhou to get a taste of the highly an­tic­i­pated ser­vice.

The trains — dubbed Vi­brant Ex­press — which have be­gun run­ning be­tween Hong Kong and Guangzhou, Guang­dong prov­ince, made their maiden jour­neys to the main­land from the swanky, newly built West Kowloon Sta­tion start­ing at 7 am on Sun­day.

Hail­ing it as “the fresh be­gin­ning of a new life”, Hong Kong’s Sec­re­tary for Trans­port and Hous­ing Frank Chan Fan said the new line is a cross-bound­ary in­fra­struc­ture mega pro­ject that “ev­ery Hong Kong res­i­dent should take pride in”.

More than eight years in the mak­ing, the 26-kilo­me­ter pro­ject comes as “an ex­traor­di­nary and mean­ing­ful birth­day gift” for the coun­try’s Na­tional Day on Oct 1, Lam, the chief ex­ec­u­tive, said at an event on Satur­day.

“It’s a well-timed de­but as the world’s sec­ond-largest econ­omy com­mem­o­rates the 40th an­niver­sary of the ground­break­ing re­form and open­ing-up pol­icy this year,

Vi­bran­tEx­press of­fer­ing a his­toric op­por­tu­nity for Hong Kong peo­ple to see for them­selves the eco­nomic, so­cial and tech­no­log­i­cal devel­op­ment mir­a­cle on the Chi­nese main­land,” she said.

Wang Zhimin, direc­tor of the Li­ai­son Of­fice of the Cen­tral Peo­ple’s Govern­ment in the Hong Kong SAR, said the launch of the high-speed rail link and the co-lo­ca­tion ar­range­ment — which al­lows pas­sen­gers to go through both Hong Kong and main­land cus­toms clear­ance pro­ce­dures at West Kowloon Sta­tion — shows that the “one coun­try, two sys­tems” prin­ci­ple has been con­sis­tently en­riched and de­vel­oped.

The trans­porta­tion link, which cost about HK$84.42 bil­lion ($10.8 bil­lion), is run by the city’s sole train op­er­a­tor, Mass Tran­sit Rail­way Corp.

It is Hong Kong’s first high­speed train and will slash travel time to Guangzhou by more than half to 47 min­utes, as well as con­nect pas­sen­gers from Hong Kong to 44 des­ti­na­tions on the Chi­nese main­land, in­clud­ing Bei­jing and Shang­hai.

“This is def­i­nitely an un­be­liev­able ex­pe­ri­ence, trav­el­ing from Shen­zhen to Hong Kong in no more than 20 min­utes,” said a 36-year-old pas­sen­ger who gave his name as Feng Yan, adding that he is a big fan of high-speed trains and has been a col­lec­tor of rail­way tick­ets for years. He trav­eled from Bei­jing to catch the first high-speed train from Shen­zhen to Hong Kong and wit­ness the his­toric mo­ment.

Fred­er­ick Ma Si-hang, chair­man of MTR Corp, ex­pressed high hopes for the line. “As one of the mile­stone in­fra­struc­ture projects since Hong Kong’s re­turn to the moth­er­land in 1997, the Vi­brant Ex­press trains have what it takes to go even far­ther, plant­ing their foot­prints across ev­ery cor­ner of our coun­try,” he said.

ROY LIU / CHINA DAILY

in Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Sta­tion early on Sun­day morn­ing, min­utes be­fore board­ing the first train from Hong Kong to Shen­zhen North Rail­way Sta­tion in Shen­zhen, Guang­dong prov­ince.

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