Last Friday there was another demonstration by transport operators who want to protect their own interests and prevent new railway lines being built. The Standard reports that taxi and minibus drivers and owners are against the proposed South Island and West Island MTR lines.
Noting the HK$5 million daily loss incurred by the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation's West Rail, the transport industry representatives said the proposed railway would end up following the same pattern as a result of inadequate demand. They also said the railway would make it extremely difficult for them to earn their living on Hong Kong Island. If the railway became reality, they claimed the public would face less choice and end up paying more.
Bus companies are also against the new lines, claiming that the passenger numbers projected by the MTRC are not realistic. Lyndon Rees, managing director of both Citybus and New World First Bus, is not keen on competition:
Fares for bus routes on Hong Kong Island now average around HK$5 per trip. Rees said 300 buses and more than 1,000 staff belonging to the two franchised bus companies might face redundancy, if the proposed rail lines became a reality. He said the two companies' existing bus services could only bring marginal profits and further contraction could make the viability of their operations questionable.
Oh, right. Building two new MTR lines might mean that the bus companies would be forced to close down all their operations on Hong Kong island. Makes you wonder how they manage to compete with the existing MTR Island Line. What a load of old nonsense.
It's not surprising that West Rail should be used as evidence here. However, there is a big difference. WR was built partially to cope with a growing population in the NW New Territories, and growth has been slower than government projections, whereas the two proposed MTR lines on HK Island are being built in areas where few new developments are planned and the population is stable. So even if we accept that mistakes were made in planning West Rail, different considerations apply here. Yes, of course it will take traffic away from buses, minibuses and taxis, and it will reduce private car usage, but that is line with the government's transport policy.
Residents and business owners in the area want the new lines, and we have to hope that the loud noise created by a few self-interested competitors will not influence legislators or the government when it is time to make a decision.