25th February, 2014
Legco Document Reveals Multiple MTR Lines Have Reached Maximum Capacity
The Legislative Council’s Subcommittee on Matters Relating to Railways will be discussing MTR’s capacity and loading of MTR trains. The document submitted by the Transportation and Housing Department shows that MTR has been “manipulating” the loading figures by overestimating its carriage capacity in order to lower the passenger density ratio. The real loadings during peak hours for some critical links stand between 80% and 100%, and the Tseung Kwan O Line’s loading reached 100.6%.
The document also reveals that MTR based its calculation on 6 persons per square meter, which does not match reality. The footnote of the document says:
“We note that the Design Capacity of railway systems around the world varies, mostly ranging from 4 to 6 persons per square meter (ppsm). Yet, very often, these benchmarks cannot be met in practice. For example, metros in Japan have a desirable standard of 3.3 ppsm but currently are achieving an average of 5 ppsm.”
In other words, a ppsm of 6 is an impossible target – the maximum ppsm is around 4 and 5. Japan’s desirable standard is 3.3 ppsm (standing), but the MTR has long been using 6 ppsm as the base to calculate its capacity which means its actual carriage capacity has long been significant overestimated.
The document also recalculate MTR’s loading based on the passenger density of 4 ppsm, and the figures show that at peak hours, the per hour loading of all critical lines hikes substantially. Using 4ppsm, a more realistic base, the loading of each lines is as follow:
East Rail – 100%
West Rail – 99%
Ma On Shan Line – 80%
Tseung Kwan O Line – 100.6%
Island Line – 93%
Kwun Tong Line – 94%
Tsuen Wan Line – 98%
Tung Chung Line – 84%
The loading figures calculated by MTR, based on 6 ppsm, show drastic difference:
East Rail – 71%
West Rail – 70%
Ma On Shan Line – 57%
Tseung Kwan O Line – 72%
Island Line – 66%
Kwun Tong Line – 67%
Tsuen Wan Line – 70%
Tung Chung Line – 60%
The document, however, defended the use of 6 ppsm by saying that “an increasing number of passengers reading newspapers or use mobile devices such as tablet computers or smart phones during their trips which require more personal space on trains”. The document also added that, “In actual operation, trains running during the busiest hours on the busiest corridors achieve a passenger density of only around 4 ppsm, but 6 ppsm in the 1980s and 1990s”. However, the document did not explain why this problem has only become visible after free newspapers have been in circulation for all these years, and the fact that tablets and smart phones actually occupy a lot less space than printed newspapers.
The government highlighted in the document that service lever of the four upcoming railways (South Island Line, West Island Line, Shatin to Central Link and Kwun Tong Line Extension) will be measured at 4 ppsm. However, it failed to explain why this benchmark cannot be applied to the existing railways.
Neither the HKSAR government nor MTR has proposed any solution to the problem. They only stressed that after the new railway lines are built, the current loading problems can be relieved. However, the fact remains that the train frequency of the critical lines in town, namely Kwun Tong Line, Island Line and Tsuen Wan Line, has reached its maximum level.
MTR has long been underestimating its loading rate. It is obvious that this is an attempt to conceal the problem of overcrowding. The government uses the “adjusted figures” to cover up the problem of Hong Kong’s overall transportation system and the pressure the Individual Visit Scheme tourists bring to the transportation system on one hand, and cut down the number of bus routes in the names of maximising the capacity of MTR on the other.
It was brought to the Editors’ attention that part of the Western world perceive public transport is only used by the poor and grass root, hence many upper class areas are against having public transport stations being built nearby their area. In Hong Kong, public transport is essential as the taxation on private cars is 100%, insurance and driving tests are expensive, and parking space is scarce. Private cars are luxury items rather than necessity in Hong Kong, hence a overload in MTR, a major public transport in HK is a serious problem.