Societies independently evolve at their own pace and rhythm and, as a community asset, these same societies give us our license to operate. While we cannot control societal development, we can guide how we use such development for the common sustainable future. We must remain responsive to expectations while at the same time take leadership in shaping society’s future urban landscapes and transport systems.
The ability to respond and lead at the same time is the challenge. Our experience and competencies in the design, construction and operations of mass transit systems provide the reservoir of expertise to successfully evolve with social expectations. Our culture of continuous improvement guides response and our Sustainable Competitive Advantage model provides the appropriate balance between aspirations delivery and resources expenditure.
We also know that an early understanding of societal aspirations improves the design and planning of new rail lines. We advise city planners on Hong Kong’s future transport grid and urban development, most recently in the Rail Development Strategy 2000 Update and the Hong Kong Planning Vision and Strategy 2030. The design and building of the planned railways and related properties to deliver ‘liveability’ is our leadership opportunity within this larger agenda.
Our plan is to optimise how we can best serve community development and transport needs and, in parallel, secure the needed localised ownership of our services. All new rail lines are guided by this understanding with some interesting inputs being seen. Consideration of trees and public spaces around stations is now mandatory in planning. External pedestrian access points are more in tune with local traffic flows and local social amenities increasingly figure in station developments.
Our property development follows societal aspirations closely. With control of the master planning for the residential and commercial properties around our stations, we turn aspirations to reality. Planning residential estates and commercial hubs to accommodate bigger living spaces and the greener and healthier environment continue to make economic sense. With potential impact on short-term profitability a recognised possibility under new regulations, aligning to society’s aspirations, we believe, enhances the long-term value and brings the liveability factor needed for society’s sustainable development.
Engagement buffers the guesswork and provides a degree of certainty when working with expectations. Being a self-sustaining organisation, stakeholder buy-in is vital to organisational development and economic viability. Integrity of our services has over time built the public confidence in our licence to operate. However, maintaining that trust is an ongoing challenge that we have not always managed to the best outcome. The intense and unexpected opposition to the express rail linking Hong Kong to mainland China’s high-speed rail network in 2010 prompted an in-depth review of engagement strategies. We underestimated how deely some societal interest groups felt about the project, in particular the rural villages and younger generation, who champion the environment, heritage and liveability of Hong Kong. Our engagement now actively includes these and other vested interests and NGOs to rebuild trust. Their collective voice of support strengthens the inter-generational continuity of our business and the shared goal of a sustainable Hong Kong. The recent public endorsement to move forward with the Shatin to Central Link project development is encouraging.
Further discussions on our societal engagement is found in the Community page and in our Insight commentaries, notably, Infrastructure Development: Alternative Thinking and Connecting Transport and Town Planning, both of which touch on the positive impact that prudent urban planning can have on the sustainability of Hong Kong.