Transferring from land to sea at Hong Kong International Airport

Transferring from land to air transport is the reason airports exist, but Hong Kong International Airport offers a different mode of onward transport – sea.

Western end of Terminal 1 at Hong Kong International Airport

The airport is located on reclaimed land at Chek Lap Kok.

Overview of Hong Kong International Airport

With the ‘SkyPier’ ferry terminal located at the eastern end of the island.

Skypier and AsiaWorld-Expo at the eastern end of Hong Kong International Airport

Served by cross-boundary ferries to nine Mainland China and Macao ports across the Pearl River Delta.

CKS (Chu Kong Shipping) ferry arrives at the Hong Kong China Ferry Terminal

Changing from air to sea

Arriving air passengers follow the ‘ferry’ signage in the terminal.

Directional signage to immigration , baggage reclaim and ferry transfers

To the ferry boarding gate located before the immigration counters.

Here ferry tickets are checked.

Ferry boarding gate at Hong Kong International Airport

Next stop – the basement level automated people mover station.

All aboard!

Onboard the train: mostly standing room

From here it is a 550 metre tunnel to Terminal 2, followed by 650 metre tunnel to SkyPier.

Underground guideway between Terminal 1 and the Midfield Concourse

We now return to ground level.

Head to the departure lounges.

Where ferries are waiting.

The reverse journey from sea to air is much the same, except for the aviation security checks completed before boarding the people mover towards the airport terminal.

What about baggage?

Passengers transferring from air to sea don’t need to clear Hong Kong immigration or collect their baggage – airport staff collect them from the carousel.

Baggage carousel in the arrivals hall at Hong Kong Airport

Then load them into a ULD container, and take them via an internal road to the SkyPier terminal.

Airport Authority luggage tug transports a Chu Kong Passenger Transport baggage container from SkyPier to the airport

Where they are loaded onto the relevant ferry.

ULD containers of cargo ready to be loaded onto our ferry

Passengers for participating airlines have a similarly streamlined transfer experience in the reverse direction, being able to check their baggage and collect their boarding pass when boarding the ferry.

Further reading

Hong Kong International Airport video showing the SkyPier transfer experience.

Footnote

Cheong Wing Road is used to transport baggage between Hong Kong International Airport and SkyPier – under the Road Traffic (Traffic Control) (Designation of Prohibited and Restricted Zones) Notice it is both a public road, and a zone in which the driving of the motor vehicles is prohibited.

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Aircraft registration in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan

Every civil aircraft in the world is required to have a unique identifying code, allocated by the country of registration, under a system managed by ICAO – the International Civil Aviation Organization. But in the case of China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan things get rather rather complicated, given the relationship between the countries – so how do they avoid overlaps in their aircraft fleet?

Cathay Pacific and China Eastern jets on the tarmac at Hong Kong International Airport

People’s Republic of China

In the case of the People’s Republic of China, registration codes have a “B-” prefix followed by four digits: B-0000 to B-9999.

This system was further expanded in 2018 to include B-000A to B-999Z, B-00A0 to B-99Z9 and B-00AA to B-99ZZ codes.

Hong Kong

Under British rule, aircraft of Hong Kong were registered with the “VR-H” prefix, followed by two letters: VR-HAA to VR-HZZ.

This changed following the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong in 1997.

It was agreed at the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group (JLG) in June 1997 that from July 1, 1997, aircraft registered in Hong Kong would use ‘B’, the unified nationality mark of China, as their nationality mark but they could continue to use a group of three letters beginning with the letter ‘H’ as their registration mark.

To allow time for Hong Kong airlines to amend the nationality marks on their aircraft, it was also agreed that there would be a six-month transitional period from July 1 to December 31, 1997, during which either ‘B’ or ‘VR’ could be used as the nationality marks for aircraft registered in Hong Kong on or before June 30, 1997. The change of nationality mark to ‘B’ was completed in early December.

Hong Kong aircraft moving to the B-HAA to B-HZZ group.

Cathay Pacific A330 B-HLP

But new entrants to the industry saw a need for additional registration codes – B-KAA to B-KZZ (K following H for Hong Kong) and B-LAA to B-LZZ (L following K).

HK Express Airbus A320-232 B-LCC taxis to the gate

Macau

Macau had little use for locally registered aircraft given the lack of airports, until the launch of Air Macau and Macau International Airport in 1995. Under Portuguese rule aircraft were registered with the “CS-M” prefix as CS-MAA to CS-MZZ.

This changed following the transfer of sovereignty in 1999, when they were moved to the B-MAA to B-MZZ group.

Taiwan

Taiwan, officially the Republic of China, considers itself part of China so uses the “B-” prefix for aircraft registrations, but does not consider itself part of the People’s Republic of China, so operates a separate aircraft registry. So how do they avoid an overlap?

An aircraft after being registered shall display on a conspicuous spot the nationality emblem of the Republic of China and its registration number (hereinafter referred as markings).

The nationality emblem of Republic of China’s civil aircraft shall be represented by the English letter “B” followed by a 5-digit Arabic numbers aligned left to right in the order shown below:

1) nationality emblem followed by a dash.
2) registration number follows the dash.

Five digits instead of the four – resulting in the B-00000 to B-99999 group.

China Airlines Boeing 737-809 B-18605 passes EVA Airways Airbus A321-211(WL) B-16218 at Hong Kong International Airport

Taking over from usage of the B-000 to B-999 group.

And the B-0000 to B-9999 group.

Simple enough?

Sources

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1970s trip on the pre-electrification Kowloon Canton Railway

Over the years I’ve found a few YouTube videos featuring the Kowloon Canton Railway pre-electrification, and here is another one – a 3 minute long journey along the line in 1971.

A timeline of what there is to see:

  • 00:00 Aerial view of Victorian Harbour and the Kowloon station building
  • 00:14 Outside Kowloon station
  • 00:17 Kowloon station ticket office
  • 00:27 Train in the platform at Kowloon station
  • 00:35 KCR locomotive #58 leading a train out of Kowloon
  • 00:40 Aerial view of the Kowloon station yard
  • 00:51 Train heads north towards Hung Hom
  • 01:05 Onboard a train
  • 01:12 View of the passing New Territories countryside
  • 01:20 Train passes a farmer in a paddock
  • 01:35 Onboard a train
  • 01:44 Passing a colour light signal beside Tolo Harbour
  • 01:50 Northbound train arrives into University station
  • 01:53 Inside the cab of a diesel locomotive
  • 02:00 Train arriving at Lo Wu
  • 02:17 Looking over the border crossing at Lo Wu
  • 02:27 Passengers cross the border on foot
  • 02:44 Chinese train departs Lo Wu
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Delivering new trains to Hong Kong’s rail network

Hong Kong doesn’t build their own rail vehicles, so they need to be imported from overseas. But how do they arrive?

Tiny little fishing boat off Hung Hom

Off the boat

Trains for the pre-merger KCR network have historically been unloaded at the wharf at Hung Hom, which has a direct rail connection to their network.


Tai Wah Sea and Land Heavy Transportation photo

Both locomotives and EMUs being unloaded from cargo lighters by onboard cranes.


Tai Wah Sea and Land Heavy Transportation photo

But deliveries for the light rail network were more complicated – LRVs are delivered by sea to Tuen Mun, then moved by road to the light rail depot.


Tai Wah Sea and Land Heavy Transportation photo

Train deliveries for the MTR also require a short road journey, being unloaded from cargo lighters at Siu Ho Wan, next door to the MTR depot.


Tai Wah Sea and Land Heavy Transportation photo

And to the depot

From either Hung Hom or Siu Ho Wan hidden track connections allow trains to be taken anywhere on the MTR network.

Whampoa bound train passes over the scissors crossover at Ho Man Tin station

With the exception of the South Island Line, which requires trains to be trucked to Wong Chuk Hang Depot.


Tai Wah Sea and Land Heavy Transportation photo

Historical footnote

The KCR steam locomotive fleet was also unloaded from ships, such as this UNRRA 2-8-0 locomotive that arrived in 1947.

A note on track connections

As part of the initial construction of the MTR system, consideration was given to a track connection at Kowloon Tong Station for the delivery of MTR trains into the tunnel via the East Rail line. But that plan was abandoned, the tunnel never built, and trains delivered by road to the Kowloon Bay depot, until the opening of Siu Ho Wan depot as part of the Lantau Airport Railway project in the 1990s provided a more convenient wharf for deliveries.

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Hidden track connections between MTR lines

Thanks to the sheer size of the network, travelling from one side of Hong Kong to another on the MTR usually involves a change of train somewhere along the way. But what if it was possible to stay on one train the entire way? This is actually possible – but with a number of caveats.

Next station display above the doors of a MTR train

When looking at the public version of MTR network map, things look pretty simple – an array of independent routes, with a multitude of interchange stations allowing passengers to change from one line to another.

But if you drill down into the detail found on this track diagram from the MTR之今昔 website, a new level of complexity emerges.

Hung Hom station track diagram

A spaghetti bowl of track!

So where do the tracks connect?

I’ve looked at MTR interchange stations before, categorising them by the passengers experience – but this time around, let’s look at the physical connection for trains.

Single track connection between West Rail and East Rail lines at Hung Hom

Tsuen Wan Line and Island Line

  • Track connection at the western end of Admiralty station, with stub sidings entered from westbound track, allowing trains to change direction and pass onto the eastbound track.

Island Line and Tung Chung Line

  • No track connection at Hong Kong Station.

Island Line and South Island Line

  • No track connection at Admiralty Station.

Island Line and Tseung Kwan O Line

  • No track connection at North Point or Quarry Bay stations.

Kwun Tong Line and Tseung Kwan O Line

  • Track connection at east end of Lam Tin Station heads into the Eastern Harbour Tunnel.
  • Track connection at west end of Tin Keng Leng Station.

Kwun Tong Line and Tsuen Wan Line

  • Track connections at the departure end of Mong Kok station in both directions.

East Rail Line and Kwun Tong Line

  • No track connection at Kowloon Tong Station.

East Rail Line and Tsuen Wan Line

  • No track connection at Tsim Sha Tsui Station.

West Rail Line and Tsuen Wan Line

  • No track connection at Mei Foo Station.

West Rail Line and Tung Chung Line

  • No track connection at Nam Cheong Station.

Tung Chung Line and Tsuen Wan Line

  • Track connection at southern end of Lai King Station, linking both Tsuen Wan Line tracks to citybound Tung Chung Line track.

Tung Chung Line and Disneyland Resort Line

  • Track connection at the western end of Sunny Bay Station to westbound Tung Chung track.

West Rail Line and East Rail Line

  • Track connection at Hung Hom Station platform 3.

East Rail Line and Ma On Shan Line

  • Track connection at Tai Wai Station from southbound East Rail Line to northbound Ma On Shan Line.

Putting the two together

If one takes this geographically accurate map of the MTR network and strips out the stations, leaving only the physical track connections between lines, you get this.

Pretty sparse, isn’t it?

Putting the connections to use

The connection between the West Rail and East Rail at Hung Hom is used to move SP1900 trains to Pat Heung Depot.

While the connection at Sunny Bay, Lai King and Mong Kok allow Disneyland Resort Line trains to visit Kowloon Bay Depot.

MTR Disneyland Resort line train on the test track at Siu Wan Ho depot

But one notable lack of connections is between the former MTR and KCR networks – they use incompatible electrification schemes: the MTR uses 1500 V DC while the KCR was 25 kV AC.

The MTR did consider building a track connection at Kowloon Tong Station on the Kwun Tong line for the delivery of MTR trains via the KCR tracks but that plan was abandoned, and the tunnel never completed.

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