MTR passenger numbers rebound but fourth wave of coronavirus could see them fall again, HK group warns

26-Nov-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Passenger numbers on Hong Kong’s metro continued to climb in October as social-distancing measures were relaxed, but a concern group warned that could change in the face of a spike in Covid-19 cases.

According to the MTR Corporation, patronage for domestic services was more than 113.5 million last month, up 12.5 per cent from about 101 million in September, rising for the second straight month since the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic hit the city in July.

Compared with 108.5 million a year ago during the anti-government protests, when stations were regularly vandalised, passenger numbers last month was up by 4.7 per cent.

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But Quentin Cheng Hin-kei, spokesman for the Public Transport Research Team, a commuter concern group, expected passenger numbers to fall in December as a fourth wave of the pandemic took hold in the city.

“I expect that the pandemic would worsen very quickly within the next two weeks and the social-distancing measures will be tightened again, and people would start to stay off the streets,” he said.

“We don’t expect people to go out to celebrate Christmas this year, as I envisage people will be forced to stay at home by all sorts of isolation measures.”

With global travel almost at a standstill, the Airport Express continued to take a beating, with numbers falling 81 per cent to 174,000 in October, down from 916,000 a year ago.

For the MTR Corp’s intercity, light rail and bus services, numbers shot up by 25 per cent last month to more than 15.5 million, compared to 12.4 million in October last year. Ridership on the services was also up 16 per cent compared with 13.4 million in September.

On its cross-border rail services, patronage in October dropped 99.3 per cent, to just 50,000, from about 7.2 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 rebound in passenger numbers came after the government started to relax social-distancing rules in September in an attempt to revive the city’s economy, which stagnated 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, extending dine-in services at restaurants and reopening commercial venues such as bars, game centres and recreational facilities.

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.


Category: Hong Kong

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