Unlike many other railway operators, Hong Kong’s MTR Corporation buys a lot of television airtime to promote their services. In the last few years their television commercials seem to have a common theme: bouncy pop music with English lyrics, visuals that have nothing to do with railways, and a short Cantonese voiceover at the very end telling the viewer what the entire point of the advert is. Can you guess it from just the visuals?
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The girl on the merry go round in the first advert is promoting the MTR’s Lok Ma Chau Spur Line as an easy way to visit the attractions of Shenzhen. A city just across the Hong Kong border in Mainland China, Shenzhen has become a popular place for cheap shopping among Hong Kongers. A number of border crossings link the two cities: the Lok Ma Chau spur line and associated border crossing were opened in 2007 to relieve congestion at the main crossing at Lo Wu, and operates as a branch of the East Rail Line that links Hong Kong to the rest mainland China.
Today patronage is still unbalanced between the two crossings, with 5-6 trains per hour running to Lok Ma Chau versus the 10-12 trains per hour serving Lo Wu (more stats here). As well as correcting the imbalance, the MTR has a second reason to promote usage of the Lok Ma Chau crossing: on the mainland side the line interchanges with Line 4 of the Shenzhen Metro, which is operated by the MTR under a BOT concession agreement with Shenzhen’s municipal government.
As for the second advert with the rings, the railway being spruiked is the Kowloon Southern Link, which joined the two halves of the former KCR network with a tunnel beneath Tsim Sha Tsui. The two routes were built at separate times: the East Rail Line had been in existence for decades with the terminus on the eastern side of the peninsula, while the West Rail Line was a much later addition, opening in 2003 to a interim terminus on the western side of the Kowloon Peninsula at Nam Cheong Station.
With no connection between the two lines, travelling between the two sides of the New Territories required a bus ride over the mountains, or a complicated shuffle across multiple lines of the MTR network. With the opening of the Kowloon Southern Link these journeys were greatly simplified, with passengers just walking across the platform at Hung Hom Station between the two lines. So what do the rings have to do with the new railway? Connections?