Express rail ticketing system screeches to halt

Local | Charlotte Luo 1 Nov 2018

The express rail ticketing system in Hong Kong malfunctioned for almost two hours yesterday, meaning staff at the West Kowloon terminus had to issue tickets manually.

Francis Li Shing-kee, the MTR's operating chief, said station staff at West Kowloon noticed there were unstable transmissions within the ticketing system network after 8.25am.

Sales based on computer systems were halted, and staff had to be retasked to help sell tickets.

With the malfunction came an announcement from the MTR that there was a glitch in the express rail ticketing system at the station and on its website, so passengers faced a wait for tickets.

A back-up system was activated at 9.45am, allowing ticket sales for journeys to Shenzhen North and Futian, and the full service was back to normal at 10.15 am.

Li also said the system became fully operational with the MTR team receiving support from mainland staff.

Despite the disruption, he added, the terminus was "generally orderly" as people could still buy tickets from counters.

At counters, however, passengers could only obtain tickets for trains departing more than two hours later, and they could not secure designated seats. While queues at counters were not too long during the glitch some passengers decided to postpone trips because of it.

A passenger named Zhao said he was very disappointed as he thought obtaining an express rail ticket "would be convenient - like taking the MTR."

But when he found ticketing machines were not working he headed to a ticket counter. And he started to fret, Zhao said, after being told by staff that he could not book for a particular train or secure a designated seat, so "you get on a train if you can."

Worrying that he could wait for several trains before securing a seat he called off his journey.

Li also explained that as Hong Kong's ticketing system is linked to the mainland's there would need to be wider discussions about changes.

And there were no indications the computer ticketing system had been targeted by hackers, he added.

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