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David Tang feels honored to work for MTR Corporation given the essential railway and rail-related property services it provides.
“The purpose of our company is to keep cities moving,” he says proudly. “That is at the heart of everything we do. As an executive of this company, it is very much this purpose that drives our business in Hong Kong and the eight other cities around the world where we operate.”
Tang joined MTR in 2004 and spent a number of years rotating among different roles to understand more about the back end of the business as well as leading business development in mainland China. Following that stint, he began working within the construction side of the business after he was appointed the head of its property projects. Soon after, he became Property Director in charge of property development as well as a large property investment and management portfolio including shopping malls, office towers and residential buildings which are integrated into stations and transport infrastructure.
“Our property business in Hong Kong is a very, very large business, and now I’m helping build the international business too.”
“Our property business in Hong Kong is a very, very large business, and now I’m helping build the international business too,” says Tang, who was appointed as Property and International Business Director in 2021.
MTR’s Rail plus Property business model has enabled it to expand Hong Kong’s railway network and build new communities without the need for direct government funding. Tang now aims to bring a property flavor to the company’s international business.
“We would like to see if our model could be adapted or applied in other locations to support infrastructure development in cities that are looking at use value-capture or find other ways to ease the pressure on the public purse,” he claims.
MTR has a big presence in Australia in Sydney and Melbourne, plus a railway operations business in the United Kingdom (where it operates London’s Elizabeth Line) and four rail operating businesses in Sweden. Being internationally focused, MTR is always looking at opportunities to expand its footprint.
“It is a very large portfolio and we employ something like 17,000 employees in those locations,” he says. “So adding to the 17,000 direct employees and contractors that I have here in Hong Kong for the property business, you are talking about an entire workforce of over 35,000 people.”
“It is very satisfying to know that we are able to connect the society, to connect the communities in the work that we do.”
One current focus is on Australia, where MTR operates Metro Trains in Melbourne and Sydney Metro’s North West Line. The company is working on the City and Southwest extension in Sydney, which it will also operate.
With his work in Hong Kong and large European portfolio, Tang clearly has his hands full. But he is very much at ease with this working schedule and frequently talks about the pride he feels working for MTR and how it is making a difference to people and cities.
“It is very satisfying to know that we are able to connect the society, to connect the communities in the work that we do,” he says. “So hopefully I can continue to fly the MTR flag whereby apart from our core business, being a railway company, we are also able to add a diversity to the business that we do.”
Another passion he has in his role is ESG issues, which are moving up the list of priorities for many companies.
“I think ESG has fast become a very important element in all multinational companies around the world,” he says. “At the end of the day, I think all businesses do have a corporate responsibility to look after three things: the environment, their staff, and the customers and stakeholders that they serve. And also we need to do it in a manner in which we can uphold the highest of standards of governance and integrity.”
In the last few years, MTR has allocated significant resources into these areas and is making progress specifically in terms of diversity and inclusion.
“Now the split between male and female train captains in Melbourne is fast approaching 50-50,” he says. “Not quite there, but fast approaching it.”
“At the end of the day, I think all businesses do have a corporate responsibility to look after three things: the environment, their staff, and the customers and stakeholders that they serve.”
On the environmental side, Tang considers railway operations to be a relatively green form of transport.
“Our trains in Hong Kong, typically when full, take 2,000 people each,” he says. “Now we reckon that you would need at least 20 double-decker buses or a very large number of cars to be able to transport the same amount of people. So we are already a fairly green way for carrying people around.”
MTR also has set a science-based target to reduce its carbon emissions by 2030, with the aspiration to become carbon neutral by 2050.
“Many of the places we operate in our international business, like those in the United Kingdom, Sydney, Melbourne and also in Sweden, are now getting a large amount of the energy they require to run our trains from renewable energy sources,” he says. “So we are doing our part for the environment.”