Navigating the gates at MTR/KCR interchange stations

Until 2007 Hong Kong’s rail network was managed by two separate operators – the MTR Corporation that run the predominately underground network, and the Kowloon–Canton Railway Corporation that ran the above ground lines. A side effect of this was two separate fare structures, and a peculiar situation at one interchange station – ‘double sided’ ticket gates.

MTR Slogan.jpg

Photo by Baycrest, via Wikimedia Commons

Interchange stations

Four interchange stations existed between the MTR and KCR networks.

  • Kowloon Tong: opened in 1979 with the MTR Kwun Tong line, it became an interchange station in 1982 following the opening of the KCR East Rail line platforms.
  • Mei Foo: opened in 1982 on the MTR Tsuen Wan Line, and became an interchange station in 2003 with the opening of the KCR West Rail Line.
  • Nam Cheong: opened as an interchange station in 2003 between the MTR Tung Chung and KCR West Rail lines.
  • East Tsim Sha Tsui: opened in 2004 as the terminus of the KCR East Rail line, with a connection to the MTR Tsuen Wan line at Tsim Sha Tsui station.

Enter the rail merger

On 2 December 2007 the MTR and KCR networks were merged during a midnight ceremony.

Merger of KCR and MTR operations 2007-12-02 04h47m44s SN208224.JPG

Photo by Stewart~惡龍, via Wikimedia Commons

Where KCR signs were removed from stations, exposing new MTR branding beneath.

Merger of KCR and MTR operations 2007-12-02 02h41m14s SN208180.JPG

Photo by Stewart~惡龍, via Wikimedia Commons

Rebranding signage across the combined network was part of the initial post-merger work, but the “Seamless Interchange Programme” was far bigger.

One of the key parameters for the Government, when considering the Rail Merger, was to ensure that the Rail Merger created a seamless integration of travel between the MTR railway and KCR railway.

This would require, among other things, the removal of ticketing barriers at MTR and KCR interchange stations allowing passengers to travel from the KCR railway to the MTR railway (and vice versa) without the need to pass through intermediate ticket barriers or the need to pay a second boarding charge. The stations which will be affected by this process are Kowloon Tong, Nam Cheong and Mei Foo. The removal of such barriers is planned to be completed within 12 months after the Merger Date.

But physical works weren’t the only changes needed – integration of the two ticketing systems was also needed.

The “Day 2” changeover began with the trial for the Integrated Single Journey Ticket Automatic Fare Collection (AFC) System, which was launched on 28 September.

Single journey ticket passengers were able to enjoy reduced fares and travel within the whole MTR network using only one ticket, with the interchange ticket gates remaining in place when such passengers interchanged between the pre-merger MTR and pre-merger KCR systems at Kowloon Tong, Mei Foo and Nam Cheong stations.

Seven wall openings were created on the platform level of Nam Cheong Station to facilitate a convenient new cross-platform interchange for passengers from Hong Kong bound Tung Chung Line trains to the Tuen Mun bound West Rail Line.

To ensure smooth integration of the two different Single Journey AFC systems, more than 150,000 regularly used fare combinations were used to test software applications to confirm that proper fares were deducted.

With the successful completion of the trial, the progressive removal of 100 interchange ticket gates at the three interchange stations was completed by 10 November 2008. More than 150 Customer Service Ambassadors wearing yellow T-shirts were readily available to assist passengers to adapt to changes in the station layout at Kowloon Tong, Mei Foo and Nam Cheong stations.

Following the introduction of the integrated ticketing system, the fare gates were merely covered over.

MTR remove gate 01.JPG

Photo by hardys, via Wikimedia Commons

With temporary signage above.

Meifoo merger.JPG

Photo by Larco, via Wikimedia Commons

And temporary fencing defining the new interchange routes.

HK MTR Kowloon Tong Station South Concourse 200810.jpg

Photo by WiNG, via Wikimedia Commons

But it took over a month for them to be physically removed, leading to confused passengers in the meantime:

Rail users’ confusion about where to go when switching between former KCR lines and MTR services should come to an end this week when it begins dismantling the turnstiles passengers used to have to pass through.

They were turned off on September 28, when the MTR integrated the formerly separate charging systems, but since then thousands of passengers switching between lines have become confused and accidentally exited stations.

The MTR Corp has handed out more than 2,000 free single-journey tickets to transit passengers who made that mistake.

However, general manager Miranda Leung Chan Chi-ming said the situation was improving. ‘Passengers were not used to the changeover when it was first introduced, but they adapted quickly.’
Mrs Leung said the number mistakenly exiting stations quickly fell from 700 on the first day to between 100 and 200 a day.

Leading to the unified network seen today.

Station by station – Kowloon Tong

Kowloon Tong was the first MTR/KCR interchange station – opened in 1979 with the MTR Kwun Tong line, it became an interchange station in 1982 following the opening of the KCR East Rail line platforms.

Busy times at Kowloon Tong

With the KCR East Rail line above ground and the MTR Kwun Tong line belong, the Kowloon Tong was effectively two stations joined by long interchange passageways.

Underground passage at Kowloon Tong station

Chinese-language Wikipedia describes the original layout as:

There are three underground concourse are Kowloon Tong Station. The north and south concourses are used by the East Rail Line. Both of them have interchange links to the Kwun Tong Line concourse.

Interchange passengers would exit one station via the ticket gates, walk through a subway that was part of the unpaid area, then enter the second station – MTR Exit B1/B3 led to the KCR North concourse, while MTR Exit D led to the KCR south concourse.

Following the 2007 rail merger the unpaid and paid areas were modified, with the three concourses being joined into a single paid area. A parallel unpaid area was retained between the KCR north concourse and the MTR concourse, but the ability to move between the various MTR station exits via the unpaid area was removed.

Mei Foo

Opened in 1982 on the MTR Tsuen Wan Line, Mei Foo became an interchange station in 2003 with the opening of the KCR West Rail Line.

Tsuen Wan line platforms at Mei Foo station

Mei Foo operated as two stations linked by a long underground walkway.

Tsuen Wan line end of the transfer passageway at Mei Foo station

Featuring multiple escalators.

Escalators bank #3 in the transfer passageway between the Tsuen Wan and West Rail lines at Mei Foo station

MTR exit D1 connected the underground Tsuen Wan Line concourse to the above ground KCR West Rail concourse.

Following the 2007 rail merger, major changes were required in order to integrate the two paid areas – as described by the 閘區合併 page at ‘Hong Kong Railway Dictionary’:

  • Fence installed between unpaid and paid areas in the interchange walkway,
  • One of the four escalators near Tsuen Wan Line Exit D leading to West Rail Line concourse removed, reminder are classified as paid areas.
  • Two lifts were built at the original site of the removed escalator and designated as a paid area.
  • The lifts connecting Exit C2, interchange passage, and Tsuen Wan Line concourse are designated as paid areas, and separate gates and ticketing facilities are installed on the ground level.
  • Since there is no non-paid area access to the C2 exit and the above-mentioned lifts in the station, the above-mentioned lifts were replaced were designated as new E exits.
  • A new wheelchair lift was installed at the C2 exit to replace the above-mentioned lifts that previously provided barrier-free access to the non-paid area and ground level of the station.
  • Initially Exit D between non-paid and paid area was not provided, but due to detouring passengers causing crowding elsewhere in the concourse, independent gates and ticketing facilities were later added to provide direct access.
  • A new gate is added to the Tsuen Wan Line concourse near Exit C to facilitate passengers leaving the station. (The reason is the same as above)

Leading to the layout seen today.

Nam Cheong

Opened as an interchange station in 2003 between the MTR Tung Chung and KCR West Rail lines, Nam Cheong was the first shared-use integrated station between MTR and KCR networks.

Escalators to the West Rail / Tung Chung platform at Nam Cheong station

The station concourse was divided into two parts, managed by the respective rail operators.

KCR-MTR boundary.JPG

Photo by Bourquie at English Wikipedia, via Wikimedia Commons

Special transfer fare gates were located between the two, enabling passengers paying with Octopus card to interchange between the two systems by tapping their card just once.

MTR NamCheong TransferTurnstiles AfterMerger.JPG

Photo by KMB-ATE1, via Wikimedia Commons

Following the 2007 rail merger these transfer fare gates in the middle of the concourse were removed, and passageways were added between platforms 1 and 4, providing a cross-platform interchange between the Tung Chung line Hong Kong-bound and West Rail line Tuen Mun-bound.

Passageway at Nam Cheong station linking the Hong Kong-bound Tung Chung line platform to the Tuen Mun-bound West Rail line platform

Giving the layout seen today.

East Tsim Sha Tsui station

Opened in 2004 as the terminus of the KCR East Rail line, East Tsim Sha Tsui station has a connection to the MTR Tsuen Wan line at Tsim Sha Tsui station.

Directions to the West Rail line and East Tsim Sha Tsui station at Tsim Sha Tsui station

But due to the distance between the two stations the interchange was “out of system” – passengers exit one station, then enter another to transfer.

'Red Zone' signage in the corridor linking East Tsim Sha Tsui and Tsim Sha Tsui stations

Due to the complexity of the unpaid area subway network between the two stations, no changes were made following the 2007 rail merger.

Further reading

Posted in Transport | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fixing a power failure on the MTR

On my recent visit to Hong Kong I was travelling by train on the Tung Chung Line when a power failure stopped trains. But how long did it take to fix?

Hong Kong bound K-stock train arrives into Sunny Bay station

4:20pm – power failure detected delaying services.

17 minutes later – services back running.

4:50pm – a MTR staff member goes running down the tracks holding a big insulated pole, escorted by two other staff.

MTR staff at work on the running Tung Chung line tracks north of Kowloon station

MTR staff at work on the running Tung Chung line tracks north of Kowloon station

MTR staff at work on the running Tung Chung line tracks north of Kowloon station

6:05pm – services back to normal.

And a housekeeping announcement

I’ve just launched my page on Patreon! In case you’re wondering, Patreon is a simple way for you to contribute to this blog every month, and you get a sneak peek at what’s coming up in return!

Head over to https://www.patreon.com/wongm to find out more.

Posted in Transport | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hong Kong’s ghost station at Kwu Tung

Since the 1970s the Mass Transit Railway network has expanded to cover much of Hong Kong, but at Kwu Tung in the northern New Territories there is something different – a ghost station that has no trains stopping at it.


Photo by Baycrest, via Wikimedia Commons

Building it

Named Kwu Tung (Chinese: 古洞站) the station was built as part of the Lok Ma Chau spur line project of the early 2000s, which extended the East Rail Line via a mix of tunnel and viaducts to an additional border crossing at Lok Ma Chau.

As part of this project it was decided to build provision for a future station at the midpoint of the tunnel, to serve the Kwu Tung New Development Area.

This required some additional engineering works while building the tunnel.

Kwu Tung Station Enabling Works

2.8.13

A box for the future Kwu Tung station will be constructed using diaphragm walls excavated to rock head. The box may be excavated before the TBM passes through, or after the TBM has passed through, in which case the precast lining units will be removed during excavation. Bored piles will be driven concurrent with the diaphragm wall to provide the basis for the future station construction.

Break out and break in ground treatment will be required to enable the TBM to enter and exit the station box safely and without wall collapse. Even if the TBM drives through the area before excavation on the first drive, it is likely to pass through an excavated box of the second drive. A temporary floor slab will be required to be constructed below the level of the second TBM drive and it will need to incorporate a suitable ‘bedding” on which the TBM can pass over.

With the station box requiring additional support during the construction process.


Photo by Baycrest, via Wikimedia Commons

Before the roof was built over the top, and grass planted.


Google Maps

Today two buildings mark the site – “Emergency Passage No. 3 and No. 4” – providing ventilation and emergency exits to the tunnel below.


Google Street View

Future plans

The Hong Kong government’s Railway Development Strategy 2014 includes the Northern Link and Kwu Tung Station as a future expansion of the rail system.

The Northern Link will be a railway line between the Kam Sheung Road Station on the existing West Rail Line and a new station at Kwu Tung on the Lok Ma Chau Spur Line. The Northern Link will have a route length of about 10.7 km, and provide shuttle service between the two terminal stations (i.e. Kam Sheung Road Station and Kwu Tung Station).

Passengers will be able to interchange at the Kam Sheung Road Station with the East West Corridor, and at the Kwu Tung Station with the Lok Ma Chau Spur Line

Construction of the Northern Link was expected to commenced in 2018 with the line opening in 2023, but no progress has been made so far.

Footnote

More photos of Kwu Tung station under construction can be found at the Hong Kong Place website.

Posted in Transport | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The evolution of Beijing Capital International Airport

I first visited China back in 1998, and the difference at Beijing Capital International Airport between then and now is massive.


Photo by AcidBomber, via Wikimedia Commons

When I first flew into Beijing in 1998, there was only a single terminal, and with a handful of jet bridges.


Google Maps

Terminal 1 opened in January 1980 with 16 gates and 60,000 m2 (650,000 sq ft) of space, replacing a earlier terminal which had been in operation since 1958.


Photo by Konstantin von Wedelstaedt, via Wikimedia Commons

My main memory of the terminal was the round rotundas at the end of each pier.


Photo by shimin, via Wikimedia Commons

Which had a shop in the middle, and a mural on the ceiling – none of which exist today.


Photo by 颐园新居, via Wikimedia Commons

But by the 1990s even Beijing’s replacement terminal was too small, so work started on a bigger facility next door – Terminal 2.


Google Maps

Which dwarfed Terminal 1 next door.

Terminal 2 opened in November 1999 with 20 jet bridges and a floor area of 336,000 m2 (3,620,000 sq ft), and was used as the sole terminal until September 2004, while Terminal 1 was renovated.


Photo by shimin, via Wikimedia Commons

But this never terminal was not enough, so an even larger Terminal 3 was built on the other side of the airport.


Google Maps

Dwarfing the rest of the airport – Terminal 1 and 2 are barely visible to the top left.

Construction of Terminal 3 started in March 2004, and opened in two stages. Trial operations commenced in February 2008, with the complete terminal opening in March 2008. Terminal 3 was the largest airport terminal-building complex in the world to be built in a single phase, with 986,000 m2 (10,610,000 sq ft) in total floor area, with 72 jet bridges and 78 remote gates across the main passenger terminal (Terminal 3C) and two satellite concourses (Terminal 3D and Terminal 3E).


Photo by AcidBomber, via Wikimedia Commons

But even this massive airport isn’t big enough to cater for China’s explosion in air traffic – Beijing Daxing International Airport is currently under construction – featuring 4 runways, 268 parking bays, and a 700,000 square meter terminal.

A footnote on murals

I haven’t been able to find any details about the mural I remember seeing, but a mural by artist Yuan Yunsheng was quite controversial when unveiled in 1979.

Travelers rushing through Terminal 1 at Beijing Capital International Airport used to freeze in their tracks when they caught a glimpse of a mural with lush tropical colors, crisp lines and sensuous curves of three naked women washing their long tresses.

Inspired by the traditions of the Dai minority in Yunnan province, Water-Splashing Festival: An Ode to Life, unveiled in 1979, marked the difficult rebirth of the “aesthetic movement” in Chinese art after decades of political turmoil in the 1960s and ’70s, according to critics.

The piece catapulted painter Yuan Yunsheng to the global stage as an avant-garde artist emerging from the ashes of the Cultural Revolution.

Some further Chinese-language articles on the mural – 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Posted in Transport | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Back from another Hong Kong visit

It’s been three years since my son first visited Hong Kong, so it’s time for another visit to see the extended family

Peak Tram heads back down the hill towards Central

This time around we visited a few places I’ve been to before but wanted to share with the rest of the family, some new places we’d never ever been to, as well as my usual side trips to see trains – including railway lines that didn’t exist on our last visit.

  • Day 1: arrival and Airport Express train
  • Day 2: Wong Tai Sin and Tsim Sha Tsui, MTR Island Line and Admiralty interchange
  • Day 3: Tsz Shan Monastery, Tai Po Market and Hong Kong Railway Museum
  • Day 4: Hong Kong Island trams and Wan Chai
  • Day 5: Repulse Bay, Mong Kok, MTR South Island and East Rail lines
  • Day 6: Hong Kong Dolphin Watch tour off Tung Chung, Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge, Central-Mid-Levels escalators,
  • Day 7: Hong Kong Observation Wheel, MTR Hung Hom station
  • Day 8: Lamma Island, MTR Kwun Tong line extension
  • Day 9: Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences, MTR Sai Ying Pun station, Kwun Tong, Ma On Shan, East Rail and Racecourse lines
  • Day 10: Peak Tram, Hong Kong Park, Kowloon Bay
  • Day 11: Route 81 bus from Kowloon to Sha Tin, MTR East Rail, NWFB Rickshaw Sightseeing Bus
  • Day 12: MTR West Rail and Tuen Mun light rail
  • Day 13: Mong Kok, Hong Kong Airport, Tung Chung, Discovery Bay by bus
  • Day 14: Hong Kong Airport, MTR Tung Chung Line, West Kowloon railway station, Whitty Street tram depot, Discovery Bay by ferry
  • Day 15: departure

But despite my days being jam packed, I wasn’t able to tick off every place on my list. Maybe next time!

Posted in Housekeeping | Tagged | Leave a comment