Govt tight-lipped on high-speed rail line subsidies

Transport officials on Friday wouldn’t disclose how much money the MTR has been given to compensate it for losses due to the suspension of high-speed rail services to the mainland.

Cross-border express trains from the West Kowloon terminus have been suspended since January 30, 2020 because of the Covid pandemic.

At a Legco panel meeting, Roundtable legislator Michael Tien asked whether the government is still subsidising the rail firm based on passenger numbers or its utility fees.

“Are you being fair when restaurants only receive little subsidy, but you are subsidising the MTR using the original formula? We are talking about HK$400 million to HK$500 million a year,” Tien said.

“It’s a question of justice. There are many listed companies in Hong Kong that are affected by the pandemic but we don’t see the government subsidising their businesses.”

In response, a deputy secretary for transport, Amy Wong, said the administration can’t make the figures public because they are commercially sensitive.

She pointed out that the high-speed rail operation agreement states that the government needs to “share the risks” if discrepancies between actual and projected passenger numbers are greater than 15 percent.

The latest financial report from the MTR shows it had an income of HK$1.36 billion from the high-speed rail line last year, despite having zero passengers.