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The Rail + Property model is giving MTR a global reputation for innovation

The Rail + Property model is giving MTR a global reputation for innovation

By Jeremy Long

As word about the innovative approaches utilised by MTR continues to spread, we’ve been featured in a new book on innovation by David Rowan, who has gone around the world to find radical business ideas and innovations that are changing the status quo in a range of industries. 

Recognition of the innovation demonstrated by our colleagues is always encouraging, and one of the most beneficial elements of being a worldwide company is that we’re constantly able to feed off each other’s innovation. In Sweden, our colleagues make focusing on passenger experience a priority and have shown the way forward on numerous innovation measures. In the UK, we have also made that a central pillar of our plans for the country’s rail industry. In our Hong Kong markets, the sheer number of people using the service means that passengers always have to be front and centre.

But in Hong Kong our innovation stretches beyond the passenger day-to-day and towards the best way to finance the construction and operation of, not only the rail services, but the surrounding land. Despite the enormous complexity of the challenges, the benefits for everyone are as large, which is why the rail + property (R+P) model has become so central to the operations of MTR in Hong Kong.

David Rowan has travelled the world, uncovering the most innovative stories from industries that are being turned on their heads. The work being done in property by MTR in Hong Kong is certainly an example of that. At a time when passengers are demanding more from their public transport and finances are tight, the UK and Europe market could learn a great deal from the approach adopted in Hong Kong.

The scope of the R+P project is significant in scale. There are currently 45 property developments above MTR stations and depots in Hong Kong alone, which have been vital in turning MTR into a huge global player with an enviable balance sheet.

Our ambition moves beyond this too, with the proposed Tseung Kwan O Line set to incorporate fifty residential towers, a 45,000 square-metre shopping centre, two kindergartens, three primary schools, two secondary schools, homes for the elderly and disabled and some 19,000 square metres of parks. In short, an entire town, with space for 68,000 people, all above a railway depot and station.

We and others have growing confidence in the R+P model. It is now a commonplace truism that the construction of rail projects will increase the value of the land around the project. And the model which captures that increased value and uses it to ensure low train fares on the rail projects, rather than abandoning it to the wider market, is something that we’re rightly proud of.

R+P also brings social benefits, both through the integrated private and public spaces created above the stations, and an environmental benefit from helping to camouflage the transport infrastructure.

This innovative approach is one we want to bring to our projects throughout Europe. By learning from the other markets in which we operate and by bringing the most innovative, global practices with us, we will be able to continue reaping the full benefits of our global footprint.