Insert ignorant transport opinion


HK MTR

I wouldn't call myself an expert on train systems or payment systems like some people. In fact I'm anything but, but since I have some insight now into these systems, maybe someone can benefit from my rambling to myself and eavesdropping on conversations in Cantonese.

I've only been in Hong Kong itself for perhaps a week and have taken the MTR probably every one of those days – it's a great system, which runs quite smoothly. The Octopus Card has been wonderful to use, I can only imagine how such systems have improved life in other countries that use cashless payment like this in perhaps Japan or Singapore. However, despite it being an Australian invention, despite the fact that the trains are Australian made (by Goninan, United Group)... we do not have this system in Australia.

Why is that?

From what I overheard in conversation, because Australia is unwilling to change their systems. Unwilling to change their outdated, redundant systems over to the new systems which would greatly improve and benefit our way of life. Hong Kong managed to change and adapt to the Octopus Card because their MTR system was so indispensable, eventually food stores and other forms of transport began to adapt it because it was convenient, everyone had an Octopus Card and there were so many food stores within stations this made it easy for the passengers to grab things on the go.

The MTR system is the basis of all of this, the foundation around which this was all built. Of course it took time, but it happened and now the MTR is expanding quickly. Cityrail, on the other hand, barely budges every year except in ticket prices, and upwards on that factor.

Octopus card

Cashless systems sure seem to be the way of the future and I can definitely see it in Hong Kong where it's so quick and easy. No fumbling for coins at a ticket machine and missing your train, it's just pay as you go. I'm used to crappy Cityrail to the point which I can tolerate it, however that's not the case with everyone. Perhaps this new Opal card which is coming out will help us level the playing field... a tiny bit, but seeing Cityrail's previous track record, I don't have a good feeling, despite how good the progress looks to anyone right now.

Of course this is hardly a fair comparison given the Cityrail network is larger overall. However seeing the difference between a system that works, and a system full of faults is sorely disappointing. Really, what it comes down to is being willing to change and put the effort and follow-through into doing it.

So is Australia a backward nation? You bet I think it is.

Octopus card image from Myalva.com