MTR boosted by relaxed social-distancing measures amid easing of Covid-19 third wave, passenger numbers pass 100 million in September

28-Oct-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Passenger numbers on Hong Kong’s metro rebounded by more than 28 per cent in September from August, after workers returned to their offices and social-distancing measures were relaxed as the third wave of Covid-19 cases eased.

According to the MTR Corporation, patronage for domestic services was more than 100 million last month, down 20.4 per cent from about 127 million a year ago.

However, compared with 78.5 million in August, the figure represented a rebound of 28.5 per cent.

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With global travel almost at a standstill, the Airport Express continued to take a beating, as passenger numbers plummeted 82.7 per cent to 179,000 in September, down from more than 1 million a year ago. However, the figures rose by almost 21 per cent compared to 148,000 in August.

For the MTR Corp’s intercity, light rail and bus services, numbers dropped 27 per cent year-on-year to about 13.4 million, down from 18.3 million. But ridership on the services was up 23 per cent compared with almost 11 million in August.

On its cross-border rail services, patronage in September dropped 99.5 per cent, to just 41,000, from about 8 million year-on-year, as the MTR Corp halted most operations on the East Rail Line from early February to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The high-speed rail link to Guangzhou has been closed since late January.

The strong rebound from August’s figures came after the government started to relax social-distancing rules in September in an attempt to revive the city’s economic activities, which had become stagnant following the ravages of the third wave of Covid-19 infections starting in July.

Measures that were relaxed included increasing the number of people allowed at public gatherings from two to four, extending dine-in services at restaurants until midnight and reopening commercial venues such as bars, game centres and recreational facilities.

Companies that told staff to work from home also gradually reopened offices, as did the government, which sent civil servants home in July.

The rail giant recorded net losses of HK$334 million (US$42.8 million) in the first six months of 2020, from a profit of HK$5.5 billion in the same period last year its worst performance since going public 20 years ago.

Quentin Cheng Hin-kei, spokesman for the Public Transport Research Team, a commuter concern group, said he believed the MTR Corp had passed its lowest point of the crisis.

“With the easing of the pandemic and the restriction rules, the rebound in September patronage is expected,” he said.

“I believe the lowest point of the health crisis is over if there is no rebound in Covid-19 infections.”

However, he remained pessimistic about the rail giant’s outlook, saying its business was unlikely to return to the pre-coronavirus levels.

“Even if all the borders are reopened, tourists will remain cautious about coming to Hong Kong and its retail business will continue to suffer,” he said. “I think it will be impossible for the MTR Corp to get back to the levels before the outbreak.”


Category: Hong Kong

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