The Kowloon Southern Link had a baptism of fire yesterday, with protesters calling the MTR Corporation "heartless" for its operating changes in line with the extended service while many New Territories residents complained of steep fares for a speedy ride to urban Kowloon.
With the new interchange at Hung Hom for the West and East rail lines, passengers will take slightly more than 37 minutes to get to the station from Tuen Mun without having to change trains at Nam Cheong. For those in Yuen Long, the ride will take less than 27 minutes.
The MTRC expects the West Rail daily average of 200,000 commuters to rise by 30,000 because of the extension.
Yesterday's opening of the interchange attracted the usual early birds who queued up as early as 4.30am for the first train from Hung Hom to Tuen Mun through the new Austin station.
But 20 to 30 representatives and supporters of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong wielded posters and banners that read "MTR is heartless."
The protesters were angry over fares such as HK$12.90 to get from Tuen Mun to Nam Cheong and HK$10.90 from Sheung Shui to Austin.
Operations head Choi Tak-tsan said services were "generally smooth" and that display board kinks were ironed out by 8.30am and had "no effect on the train services," Choi said.
Many passengers complained of delays of up to nine minutes while changing over to West Rail trains from east-bound trains.
Choi blamed the delays on it being a Sunday and promised waits will be minimized today, the first full working day.
A DAB survey of 536 passengers at the Fanling Station on August 11 found that 31 percent of respondents were not aware that the new terminus was Hung Hom and not East Tsim Sha Tsui.
About 46 percent thought that HK$10.90 to get from Sheung Shui to Austin Station was unreasonable, as opposed to 17 percent who did.
Nineteen percent less respondents said they would take the MTR to Tsim Sha Tsui and 11 percent less would catch the train to the island.