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New MTR boss refuses to be drawn on size of hikes

Phila Siu and Rio Lau

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

The MTR Corp has yet to make a decision on the size of its planned fare increases, according to its new chief executive Jay Walder.

When asked what the railway operator has in mind, Walder replied yesterday: "We do not have a percentage yet for the increase. There is a fare adjustment mechanism under which the MTR operates. That mechanism is an open and transparent one."

It allows adjustments for inflation and increases in wages.

He said the MTR already has concessions for children, students and the elderly.

It will continue to look at promotions to increase passenger numbers, because this is something helpful to both the company and public.

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Walder, 52, was former chairman and chief executive of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority before resigning in July. He has 30 years' experience in the railway business.

After becoming head of the MTA in 2009, he laid off 3,500 staff and reformed the company.

He managed to save US$520 million (HK$4.06 billion) in operating costs within two years.

However, Walder said the layoffs were down to the MTA not having enough money to operate, and denies he will do the same with the MTRC.

"The assets were not renewed and the infrastructures were in terrible condition," he said.

Walder, who became the head of the MTRC on Sunday with a term of 30 months, said he will focus on three things.

He said he will make sure the five new rail lines are constructed in a "seamless and effective" way.

The new routes include the West Island and South Island lines.

He will look at further expansion and also strengthen MTRC commitment to the community.

Walder said he arrived in Hong Kong in November to get familiar with the railway system.

He met operations staff, went to different stations and looked at MTRC property developments.

His annual salary is HK$7.2 million, which is about 1.6 times his MTA pay.

But this is still far short of the annual salary of HK$13.9 million of former MTRC head Chow Chung-kong.

"I am here to stay," Walder said.


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