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 , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Changing tracks on the Shanghai Maglev

There has been plenty written about the Shanghai Maglev train and the magnetic levitation technology which allows to reach a maximum speed of 431 km/h on the journey from Pudong International Airport. But none of it covers the operational details of the line – how many trains, how they change tracks, and where there are maintained. So let’s go for a deep dive.

Maglev train awaiting departure from Longyang Road station

Some background

The Shanghai maglev train (Chinese: 上海磁浮示范运营线) is a magnetic levitation train that operates in Shanghai. The line is the third commercially operated magnetic levitation line in history, after the British Birmingham Maglev and the German M-Bahn, the first commercial high-speed maglev, and the fastest fastest commercial high-speed electric train in the world.

Construction of the line began in March 1, 2001 and cost $1.2 billion to build, with public commercial service commenced on 1 January 2004. During a non-commercial test run on 12 November 2003 a maglev train achieved a Chinese record speed of 501 km/h.

Each train is 153 metres (502 ft) long, 3.7 metres (12 ft) wide and 4.2 metres (14 ft) tall, and has a three-class, 574-passenger configuration. The train set was built by a joint venture of Siemens and ThyssenKrupp from Kassel, Germany and based on years of tests and improvements of their Transrapid maglev monorail.

The double track guideway was built by local Chinese companies, the double line being 30.5 km (18.95 mi) long with a separate single track leading to a maintenance facility.

Going for a ride

For passengers arriving at Shanghai Pudong Airport there are three travel options – bus, maglev train, and metro train.

Three public transport options at Shanghai Pudong Airport - bus, maglev train, and metro train

The maglev train is the fastest, as well as the most expensive.

Passenger saloon of the Shanghai Maglev Train

Speeding past both trains on the parallel metro line, and buses on the freeway.

Maglev train speeds past Haitiansan Road Station at 300 km/h

But it also means the front of the train is quickly covered with splattered bugs!

Plenty of bugs splattered on the maglev train!

The advertised top speed is 430 km/h, but this is only achieved by trains running during peak times: 09:00 – 10:45 and 13:00 – 16:45.

For the rest of the day trains ‘only’ reach a top speed of 300 km/h.

Now at the maximum speed of 300 km/h

The slower speed is to save power, which makes sense given the massive amount of electricity needed to accelerate the train from a standing start for such a short journey.

Changing tracks

My first question was how the maglev trains change tracks. At the approach end to Longyang Road station I noticed a crossover, but I never saw it get used.

Crossovers in the maglev track outside Longyang Road station

The crossover is even more noticeable head on from the central platform.


Photo by Raki_Man, via Wikimedia Commons

As well as overhead via Google Maps.

But I finally got somewhere when I found this video by Luke Starkenburg, showing the crossover in use.

He also provided an explanation as to why I didn’t see it in use.

I shot these scenes back in 2006 when the Shanghai Maglev used the switches in daily operation, when two trains were providing the regular service, with a third spare train. The trains used to change tracks in a ‘pinched loop’ system.

Today, the maglev uses two trains running on their own dedicated track all day, with the switches not used in regular operation, except in the morning and evening to put the trains away in the depot.

Thanks Luke!

On to the maglev depot

On my maglev journey I noticed a single track veer away from the main alignment, just north of Pudong International Airport.

Single track heads off to the depot, with the Shanghai Metro line 2 tracks behind

It climbed above the parallel freeway, then headed back to ground level.

Depot track climbs above the freeway, before rejoining the main maglev line

Scrolling around on Baidu Maps I eventually found where the track connected back to the main line.


Photo via Baidu Maps

As well as how it crosses the freeway.


Photo via Baidu Maps

So where did it lead to? I found the answer via this track diagram on Wikipedia.

Track layout diagram from the Shanghai maglev train
Diagram via Wikimedia Commons

Turns out the track led to the maintenance facility, which looks like just another blue roofed shed from the air.


Photo via Baidu Maps

But the main entrance has a big “Shanghai Maglev Transportation Development Co Ltd” sign over the top.


Photo via Baidu Maps

And a maglev track entering from the southern side.


Photo via Baidu Maps

The single track splits into three before entering the shed.


Photo via Google Maps

A better view of the facility appears in this 2002 article by Sina News showing the first test train.


Photo via Sina News

While the three-way junction can be seen in this uncredited photo of a 3-car long train outside the depot.


Uncredited photo, unknown author and origin

And a hidden crossover

Turns out there are more junctions than just the crossover at Longyang Road station, and on the single track branch to the depot – while following the maglev guideway on Google Earth, I found another crossover track, located on a turnback siding south of the Pudong International Airport terminus.


Photo via Google Earth

Hidden away in the middle of a freeway median strip, I had no luck finding a ground level photo of the turnback track.

Track diagram

With my virtual exploration of the network complete, here is a complete track layout diagram for the Shanghai maglev.

Note that the station at Pudong International Airport has conventional ‘side’ platforms, while Longyang Road has an extra island platform in the middle to separate arriving and departing passengers.

And a footnote on train length

This 2003 article by Sina News describes the delivery of the maglev trains to Shanghai.

Yesterday two maglev trains carried by China Shipping Group aboard the ship “Taigu” docked at the Port of Shanghai, and will wait for assembly and commissioning. At this point, the number of maglev trains in Shanghai has increased to seven.

After the maglev train is officially put into operation, a total of three trains are required, running back and forth on the double track. Each train consists of 5 cars and can carry more than 400 people.

A pair of five-car trains can also be seen in this undated photo, but on my 2013 visit I only saw four-car trains.

Maglev train speeds past Haitiansan Road Station at 300 km/h

While this undated photo includes a three-car train.

So this just raises more questions – maybe the first test trains were only three cars long, then extended to five cars, until the 2006 fire resulted in the scrapping of some carriages, and the remarshalling of the remaining fleet into three shorter trains?

Some more footage

Luke Starkenburg also has fantastic lineside views of the Shanghai maglev on his YouTube channel – from January 2014.

And September 2018.

More photos

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

Planning for another trip to Hong Kong

It’s been three years since my last trip to Hong Kong, so it’s time for another visit.

Nighttime along Victoria Harbour

You’d think by now I would have run out of new things to see, but I’ve got quite a list places to visit in order to fill gaps on this website:

And finally – visit every tram depot and termini on the Hong Kong Tramways.

Will two weeks be enough – I surely hope so!

Footnote

I’ve marked all of the above, plus a few other things to see on a Google Map:

Posted in Housekeeping | Tagged | 12 Comments