Ding-Dong, the Hong Kong metro brings a smile to the face
While on the subject of London's Underground and the near-complete wifi-sation of tube stations, I couldn't help thinking of the attractive Hong Kong metro system I encountered again last month. It is modern, well organised and ultimately cheerful. Ding-Dong, Do-Do-Do, the MTR brings a smile to the face on every journey. And compared with the free-for-all on London's stations, Hong Kongers are positively polite. They stand in line, follow the floor markings at either side of the train doors and respectfully leave the centre bit for exiting passengers.
Widespread free wifi on trains and stations appears to be universal—at least I was never left short of a bar or two on the iPhone—is just one facet of a generally well-sorted system. Interchanges, a bugbear of London passengers who must tramp through miles of underground tunnels to get to the adjoining line, are a particularly pleasant affair in Hong Kong. Most line changes involve simply crossing the platform while up-coming interchange stations are indicated on the electronic route maps within the cars so you can see onward stations clearly highlighted to show the direction of travel.
Of course it is easy to make comparisons with London but it would perhaps be unfair. For one thing, the London system is much more extensive and it has also been growing piecemeal for over 150 years. It isn’t surprising that there are several different types of rolling stock, endless underground walkways and a relative lack of cohesion. Yet there is one aspect of the Hong Kong MTR that reminds me of London: Please Mind the Gap. London took the admirable Octopus card from Hong Kong and turned it into the Oyster; Hong Kong took Mind the Gap. Fair exchange.