It has been three years since my last visit to Hong Kong, and in that time there has been a number of changes to local transport.
First off are new trains. Manufactured by Changchun Railway Vehicles in Mainland China, the first of these new C-Train units entered service on the Mass Transit Railway in 2011.
New trams have also entered service on the Hong Kong Tramways. Known as the ‘Seventh Generation’ tramcars, the new units combine modern technology with the classic double deck tramcar look and feel that are a city icon.
Out in the New Territories the refurbishment of older light rail vehicles has also been carried out. In 2011 the MTR commenced the refurbishment of the Phase I units built by Comeng in Melbourne in 1988, and with their new fronts and livery, they now look similar to the newest Phase IV LRVs.
Cross-border Intercity Through Train services have also seen some changes. During my last visit the KTT was covered with an all over advertising livery for the 2010 Asian Games held in Guangzhou, China. Now is is back in the standard white, teal and blue livery.
China Railways have also changed the rolling stock used on their services into Hong Kong, with the older 25Z class carriages now replaced by those of the more luxurious 25T class. Presumably with the spread of the CRH high speed rail network across China has enabled the cascading down of carriage stock to other services.
Stations on the Mass Transit Railway has also been modernised, with above ground stations on the Kwun Tong, Tsuen Wan and Island Lines finally being sealed off from the tracks, after being retrofitted with half-height ‘automatic platform gates’. The underground stations had been retrofitted with full height platform screen doors a number of years earlier.
Ticketing system have also been updated, with the MTR starting to withdraw their existing magnetic-strip Single Journey Tickets from sale, replacing them with new ‘Smart Tickets‘ – an Octopus-style touch card that gets collected on exit.
However the biggest changes are the construction of new railway lines – five of which are well underway.
The first is the Guangzhou–Shenzhen–Hong Kong Express Rail Link, which will being the CRH high speed railway network across the border from China into Hong Kong via a 26 kilometer long tunnel to the new West Kowloon Terminus. Located between Austin and Kowloon MTR stations, the massive new railway station will form a new gateway to the city from the mainland.
A new railway with more localised impacts is the Sha Tin to Central Link – it will extend the existing Ma On Shan line underground into Kowloon, then under Victoria Harbour to Hong Kong Island, with interchanges to other MTR lines at Diamond Hill, Ho Man Tin and Hung Hom stations.
I wonder what changes will greet me on my next visit to Hong Kong?