MTR was founded in Hong Kong in 1975. It rose to fame in the world transportation industry with its unbeatable punctuality and high level of service. Nowadays, MTR has a presence on 3 continents and is responsible for 11 systems including the Stockholm metro, Stockholm commuter rail and the Express train line between Stockholm-Gothenburg (MTRX). We are proud to have MTR as our founding member and we are happy to have the opportunity to interview the new MTR Nordic CEO, Henrik Dahlin.
Julie: Congratulations on your new role, Henrik! You have been with MTR Nordic for 8 years, what is the most exciting in your journey with MTR?
Henrik: The growth journey and the quality improvements! MTR has experienced rapid growth in the past 8 years. We started by taking over the operation of the metro system in Stockholm in 2009. We then started MTRX in 2015 and won the concession of MTR commuter rail 2016. In 2016, we founded MTR Tech for the maintenance services. MTR Nordic consists of 6 companies now. I can also share the exciting news that we have won the concession for the train operation in Mälardalen, Mälartåg. We will start the service in December this year.
Julie: What is the plan for MTR Nordic in the coming 5 years?
Henrik: We need to make sure that we continue running the current operations well. We have an exploratory approach into other markets- Norway, Denmark and Germany. We are also looking into other business areas for example property business close to the stations and rail tech. Basically, we are looking to widen our business. MTR has long term business goals and we are here to stay, and continue to grow through new business opportunities.
Julie: How has COVID affected the business of MTR Nordic?
Henrik: Our open access business (MTRX) has been hit hard by the drop of ticket sales. Unfortunately, unlike flight business, train business is one of the few areas that hasn’t received any additional government funding . For the concession business (metro and commuter train), even if the number of passengers has been down by 50%-60% since COVID started, our income is less affected because our income doesn’t depend on ticket sales. However, due to the increase of sick-leave, we need to bring in extra staff to maintain the same traffic frequency to be able to provide more spacious environment for passengers. We have also increased our cleaning services. All of these measures have affected the cost side.
Julie: What do you see the future of collective transportation after Covid? Back to pre COVID? It seems like working from home is going to stay.
Henrik: It is very hard to tell. I agree that many might continue to work from home and the sensitivity to crowdedness will be affected. However, school commuters won’t change. What we need to do is to attract the commuters back with our strong services. We hope that they will choose railway service over cars especially for the environment. On the other hand, the high growth of regional GDP e,g. in the greater Stockholm area, more people are moving away from the city area. Our analytical forecast shows that our business will be back to where we were in 2019 next year. The growth in the area we serve will compensate the loss of passengers due to working from home. It is only an estimation but what we are focusing on is to maintain attractive services, continue to be environmentally friendly and maintain high capacity. I believe the commuters will find their way back.
Julie: I believe our members would be very curious to know about your personal experience of working for a Hong Kong company, can you share with us?
Henrik: Highly independent and lots of freedom. MTR Corporation provides a very open, pleasant and kind business environment. They also use their experiences with highly efficient transports as well as their international network to give us input and inspiration. Interestingly, it is a kind of family feeling where you can share ideas and help each other out. The openness and friendly culture between subsidiaries is very nice. Of course, delivering quality has always been a very strong focus. For me personally working for MTR has been the best 8 years in my professional career.