Unswayed by arguments of convenience and, perhaps, dismayed by the fast pace of the modern world, a thrifty 70-year-old Hongkonger this week rose to viral status with a blunt dismissal of the merits of the soon-to-open express rail link with the mainland.
“High speed rail? Just give up!” said the man, surnamed Wong, upon being interviewed by reporters at the West Kowloon Express Rail Terminus on Tuesday.
“If I wanted to go to Shenzhen North, I could get there for HK$4 (US$0.50). Want me to teach you? HK$2 (US$0.25) for the bus to Yuen Long, then HK$2 for the bus to Lok Ma Chau, then at Huangguang, change to the Chinese metro. It’s free (for elders).”
Straight-talking Wong — who said he was not at the station to buy tickets but to inspect “the white elephant (project)” — appeared to hit on something with his travel hack for elderly residents, with video of his advice garnering more than 232,000 views since being posted Tuesday.
His travel suggestion checks out too.
Hong Kong’s netizens on the online forum HKGolden did the math and it is, in fact, possible to travel to Shenzhen north for a couple of Hong Kong dollars, provided you are an elderly person.
Even if you are paying full price for tickets, it would only set you back just under HK$27 (US$3) compared to the HK$86 (US$11) you would spend on the express rail line.
The cheaper route, obviously, is quite a bit longer than the 48-minute ride promised by the high-speed link, which will start running on Sept. 23.
And while Wong might have more time on his hands than some, he’s certainly not alone in his criticism of the controversial project.
It’s been a somewhat rocky beginning for the West Kowloon Express Rail Terminus, with local outlets like the SCMP reporting that ticket sales have gotten off to a bumpy start, and critics describing the reception to the new station as “lukewarm.”
Still, plenty have queued up to secure their place on the first trains making the journey, though some were left frustrated by glitches in the ticketing system, leading to lines of more than 10 minutes for passes.
This, according to the SCMP, prompted chief executive Carrie Lam to give some of her own advice to residents: be more patient.
The West Kowloon station and high-speed rail has been a source of contention in Hong Kong after it was announced that mainland immigration and customs officials will be posted at the station, which effectively means implementing mainland law in part of Hong Kong.