An original version of this article appeared in Hong Kong Free Press on July 30, 2015:
A recent Facebook post purporting to show mainland visitors caught out after failing to pay the MTR’s first class premium has angered social media users in Hong Kong.
The user responsible for the post, which featured a photograph of MTR staff checking tickets on the East Rail Line first class carriage, said that “more than ten people received penalties” for fare evasion in the carriage.
He said he dialed the MTR hotline to provide a tip-off to staff and that nine-tenths of those caught were mainland visitors, concluding that the penalties dealt “served them right”.
The post appeared in a closed Facebook group called “Safe Driving” that boasts more than 47,000 members. Twenty hours later, it had received more than 3,000 likes and 600 comments.
Many internet users responded by praising the original poster for reporting the case. One internet user said that people caught evading fees should be required to pay the penalty immediately.
In a written reply to HKFP, MTR Corporation said it was committed to combating fare evasion, adding that staff are stationed at different times to conduct ticket checks on first class carriages. It added: “Notices have been put up in a clearly visible manner inside the first class station platform and carriages of the East Rail Line, reminding passengers to pay [the] first class premium before using the service.”
However, the railway operator refused to disclose the number of riders caught evading first class premium last year, citing that the data was for “internal reference” only. The MTRC does not keep details of offenders’ nationalities.
MTR currently offers a first class service on the East Rail Line where passengers can pay a premium equivalent to the normal standard fare of a trip to enjoy the comparative comfort of an upgraded car. Riders are required to purchase a first class single journey ticket or validate their Octopus cards on the First Class Processor before boarding the train.
MTR bylaws specify that individuals caught avoiding the first class premium fee will be liable to a HK$500 surcharge.
Last year, Oriental Daily reported that MTR staff had let off several mainland visitors caught evading the premium. The company said MTR staff were only seen recording the personal information of those caught, but not requiring them to pay the surcharge.