A personal dialogue with
Mr. Morris CHEUNG
European Business Director, previous Human Resources Director of MTR Corporation Ltd, Hong Kong;
and Chairman, UITP Asia-Pacific Division
- You have been one of the well-known public transport figures in our sector in this region. Can we first know a bit about yourself?
[Mr. Cheung] “I have been working with the MTR Corporation Limited for over 30 years. MTR operates the metro system in Hong Kong and 6 other cities in the world. My previous jobs were around metro operations and engineering before I became the Human Resources Director about 3 years ago.”
- Your previous and current jobs seem different in nature. What are the learnings which can be complemented between one and another?
[Mr. Cheung] “In MTR, we believe that it is our people that make a difference and set us apart from others. Both human resources and line management play key roles in bringing this belief to reality in our day-to-day works of our people.”
- Being responsible for Human Resources in a big organization, are you responsible for infusing a corporate culture or change of the corporate culture to help make the organization perform better?
[Mr. Cheung] “I am a strong believer on culture is crucial to the success of a company. Building a corporate culture needs commitment from the top and persistent efforts of all departments working together. We set clear objectives and launch different initiatives to engage our people in the journey of nurturing our culture.
We look for continuous improvement. Under the ‘Listening‧Responding’ programme launched in 2012, we set a clear objective to respond directly with improvements in those areas suggested by passengers. Through communications, we engage our staff to ensure we are moving forward with them. There is a strong culture of continuous learning and improvement in MTR. Our culture is a “can-do” attitude, a commitment to safety and always striving to do better. We have various structured development programmes that aim to raise the skill levels of our staff and to nurture our talents at different levels to support our business development.”
- Do you think Public Transport is still important to Hong Kong?
[Mr. Cheung] “I believe an efficient public transport system can help sustainable economic growth of a city, and Hong Kong is a good example. Hong Kong remains a vibrant city with steady economic growth for half a century, and public transport has indeed improved mobility of the city over the years. At the same time, Hong Kong has one of the highest usage rates on public transport and one of the lowest car ownership levels among developed cities. By building the mass transit system as the backbone of public transport, Hong Kong has one of the lowest carbon footprint on transportation in the world. Economic growth is not only supported by mobility provided by the efficient public transport system, but also by the development of new communities along the railway network.
To develop an efficient public transport system, it is crucial to have a holistic perspective on the role of public transport whereby the system should integrate with the society, economy and environment, and its benefits to sustainable growth of the city. There should be incentives for the public transport operators to improve their service delivery, including safety and customer service.”
- MTR is already a well-known brand in the public transport sector. Perhaps we can take the opportunity to learn from you the expansion plan?
[Mr. Cheung] “In Hong Kong, we are building 5 new railway lines/extensions that will further enhance mobility of the city and connection with other Mainland China cities. Also, under the MTR customer-centric initiatives of the ‘Listening‧Responding’ Programme, we shall continue to improve our station and railway facilities, train frequencies of our existing network, and communication with customers using mobile apps, etc.”
- What big challenge(s) you see in the expansion plan of MTR?
[Mr. Cheung] “Building 5 railway lines/extensions at the same time is a big challenge! There are huge demands on resources both internally and externally to work on these projects. Externally, we tried to attract more competent international companies to bid for our contracts in Hong Kong. Internally, we tried to recruit professionals from overseas and local, and graduate engineers to fill the pipeline. We also collaborate with the construction industry to attract more workers into the industry. The objectives is to deliver projects on time and within budget, such that the communities can enjoy the convenience provided by the new lines/extensions.”
- As you are the Chairman to UITP Asia-Pacific Division, what role do you see UITP play with your daily work and within your organization?
[Mr. Cheung] “It’s indeed my honour to serve as Chairman of the UITP Asia-Pacific Division. It is my personal wish that members would be like myself, and my colleagues in MTR, who had benefitted a lot from the sharing and learning with our counterpart companies and would continue to do so! I had been working with UITP colleagues in this region and their headquarters office, to steer various activities throughout the years. We meet regularly at world congress, regional congress, as well the Asia-Pacific Assembly who have now converted to be a high-quality scientific programme and exchange among colleagues in the Asia-Pacific region.
I had taken initiative to help set up the Asia-Pacific Urban Rail Platform, which involves over ten urban rail operators in the region, to research and discuss into topics of interests that have a positive impact to our operations. Also, I lead the formation of the Asia-Pacific Centre for Transport Excellence which has a clear objective of consolidating public transport knowledge within the region, through extensive training and research activities.
One milestone project under the UITP Asia-Pacific Division is the Urban Transport Account – a mobility statistics benchmarking project that aims to help authorities, planners, operators and researchers to have better grasp on trends and insights.
Through UITP, MTR as an organization has kept abreast of the development on significant public transport topics and strategic matters. This also helps us in formulating our business goals.
Indeed, we shall organize the 14th UITP Asia-Pacific Assembly in conjunction with the 91st Metro Assembly, in Hong Kong, on 21-22 October 2014. It will be a good occasion for members and new friends to experience what UITP can foster to exchange and to learn.”
- What would be the “one phrase” you would advise our young talents to devote their energy to our sector?
[Mr. Cheung] “THINK BIG, THINK SMILE – Public transport can make a difference to our society, and one should remember ‘SMILE’ – the acronym for the 2015 UITP World Congress and Exhibition in Milan, meaning Sustainability, Mobility, Innovation, Lifestyle and Economy. Let me do a bit of promotion here – for I truly look forward to seeing you all in UITP events!”