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For any British commuter, the idea of trains being on time 99 per cent of the time – and clean – is pure fantasy, but as Hong Kong’s MTR Corporation takes on yet another UK rail franchise, there could be hope.
MTR Corporation has won a bid for the South-West rail franchise as part of a consortium with FirstGroup adding to its existing £1.4bn deal to run CrossRail train service and London Overground services, which it has operated with Arriva for nine years.
At home in Hong Kong, MTR Corporation runs the city’s nine metro lines carrying more than 4.6 million passengers a day. The company reported that in 2016 it had seen its best performance since 2007 with a 99 per cent on-time performance level.
MTR’s London Overground trains ran within 5 minutes of schedule 94.4 per cent of the time during the 2015/2016 financial year. In comparison, trains operated by Govia Thameslink, owner of troubled Southern which runs on the London to Brighton line, arrived on time 79.8 per cent of the time in 2015/2016, according to Network Rail.
MTR, which 75 per cent government-owned, partners with property developers to develop residential projects and shopping malls above stations. It also runs train services in mainland China, Sweden and Australia.
But before we get too excited about finally being on time, one strange policy by the MTR prompted musical protests Hong Kong for banning cellos and other large instruments from its trains.