Why HK’s MTR system more reliable as compared with SMRT?


Having stayed in Hong Kong as an expat, I relied heavily on their public transport system to commute to work and etc. Their MTR serves 7-9 million commuters, and my experience with it is that it’s always punctual. The average waiting interval, regardless of peak or off peak time, is about 1 – 2 minutes. Sure, machines do breakdown. Question is… how often and massive will it be if regular maintenance and checks are carried out?

So what makes the HK system more reliable as compared with SMRT?

HK’s MTR is exposed to competition. Their government doesn’t control the MTR directly. The lines are divided between several large private companies to manage. Efficiency and operational cost between each company is constantly monitored. Their government ensures no oligopoly or cartel from forming; creating a business environment whereby the rival companies have to be spot on, knowing that they can be replaced should they under perform.

The public bus service is managed by a different firm, thus providing a competition of sorts to the MTR operators. Then there’s the mini-bus operator, which runs equally efficiently. And because there’s no monopoly, the fares are kept in a fairly moderate range.

SMRT is a monopoly and they control bus and taxi services. They can afford to fuck up every now and then without any repercussions because at the end of the day, you’re still going to need them and that after the tsunami of bitching, you’re just going to suck your thumb.

If you studied economics, you’ll know that with monopoly, there isn’t any incentive to improve.

SMRT is a public listed company and like many other listed companies, their main objective is to serve the interest of investors by maximising profits and outdoing each financial year. Serving the public is not the main priority, even though they get public funding.

They are aware of how the various trains company structures are run in each country, they chose this and it’ll never change. The last election, public transport was very much a part of The Workers’ Party manifesto. They suggested making it a pure public service. Of course this was scoffed at in parliament. Who knows how many of the ruling party ministers have shares in SMRT.

Will things change for the better? Unlikely in our lifetime when most of the policies made are to serve the interest of the “elites” and not to serve the public’s interest.

This is just an observer’s opinion of what the state of the nation has become. I may be wrong. I’m not adamant in arguing that I’m right. Life goes on… now where’s my thumb?

Source: Yukun Progressions