Passengers at Futian Railway Station in Shenzhen, Guangdong province. (Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn)
A flexible cross-border travel program, jointly launched by China Railway Guangzhou Group and its counterpart in Hong Kong, will soon take effect, aiming to further boost connectivity between the special administrative region and the Chinese mainland.
Under the program, which will begin on Aug 14, passengers holding valid tickets to and from Shenzhen and Hong Kong, may apply for ticket changes free of charge on their date of departure up to three times.
Based on transportation capacity and safety, railway operators will issue a certain number of nonreserved seats for these passengers.
The flexible ticket program will only apply to stations between Futian in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, and West Kowloon in Hong Kong. Passengers will not be allowed to change their destinations.
Following the resumption of high-speed trains between Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong at the beginning of this year, the passenger flow of the railway's Shenzhen-Hong Kong section has steadily increased, according to China Railway Guangzhou Group.
There are more than 180 trains running each day between Shenzhen and Hong Kong's West Kowloon, with daily traffic flow reaching 40,000 passengers, the railway operator said.
The Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong high-speed railway carried an average of 54,000 passengers per day during the summer travel peak.
"There has been a phenomenon of two-way visits by residents in Shenzhen and Hong Kong — so the flexible travel program will help provide more convenient transportation choices for passengers in the two cities," said Jin Yibing, a railway research expert based in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province.
Railway operators have been accelerating and upgrading the ticket system to meet the demand for flexible travel products, according to Zhang Yuxiu, manager of Futian Station.
Ben Chan Han-pan, chairman of the Hong Kong Legislative Council's Panel on Transport, said the new arrangement will bring the short-haul high-speed train services closer to a "metro-style" mode, but there is still room for improvement.
Chan noted that the new mode would only benefit a limited number of passengers as it will be implemented only on trains traveling between Hong Kong and Shenzhen's Futian Station. He suggested extending the flexible ticket arrangement to trains to and from stations in Guangzhou to benefit more travelers.
As part of the policy, passengers may need to stand during the journey if the train they switch to is full.
Chan emphasized the importance of the railway operator collecting data on a daily basis on the number of passengers who have used the new service to change trains. "The data would reflect passengers' demands and help enhance railway services," he added.