Testing the MTR Urban Lines Vision Train in Mainland China

The newest trains on the MTR network as the ‘Urban Lines Vision Train’ which entered service in November 2022 on the Kwun Tong Line. However that isn’t the only place they have been spotted – they’ve also appeared on the CRRC Qingdao Sifang test track across the border in Mainland China.

CRRC Qingdao Sifang Rolling Stock photo

In 2015 the MTR Corporation originally ordered 78 8-car train sets from CRRC Qingdao Sifang, to replace the aging M-Train stock which first entered service in 1979, but the order was later extended to 93 sets to enable further M-Train stock to be retired.

Northbound train arrives at Kwai Fong station

The first train was completed by 27 September 2017, and underwent testing on the test track at the CRRC Qingdao Sifang factory.

CRRC Qingdao Sifang Rolling Stock photo

CRRC Qingdao Sifang Rolling Stock photo

And a handover ceremony was held with MTR representatives on 21 December 2017.

CRRC Qingdao Sifang Rolling Stock photo

CRRC Qingdao Sifang Rolling Stock photo

The train was then despatched by sea from from Qingdao Port to Siu Ho Wan depot in Hong Kong, arriving on 25 January 2018.

Testing commenced along the Tung Chung Line from 18 March 2018, until an accident at Central station on 18 March 2019 during testing of the new SelTrac signalling system saw the entire fleet withdrawn. As an interim fix, in March 2022 it was decided to instead retrofit the new trains with the legacy SACEM signalling system, testing commencing in August 2022, with passenger service commencing in November 2022.

Further reading

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Inspecting the Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge

The Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge runs 55-kilometre across the open waters of the Pearl River Delta in China, so regular inspections are required to keep the steel and reinforced concrete structure in good condition. But how are they carried out?

Bergebulk bulk carrier navigates the shipping channel, passing over the Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge immersed tube tunnel

Some sections of the bridge have catwalks leading underneath the deck.

Maintenance walkways beneath the road viaduct

Others sections have ones that go right across the underside.

Maintenance walkways beneath the road viaduct

But the main tool for inspecting bridge is this MBI 200-1,5/S model under-bridge access unit built by Moog GmbH of Germany.

Moog GmbH photo

Acquired specially for the bridge.

The Dragages – China Harbor – VSL Joint Venture has already ordered a second MOOG under-bridge access unit for a special bridge in Hong Kong. This time, MOOG was faced with the task of finding a suitable access solution for the Hong Kong Link Road. This bridge has a length of about 7.5 miles with not only space for a six-lane highway, but also for some tricky access situations to address:

With this bridge the 6 lanes required a long reach platform to perform inspections and maintenance work, so MOOG chose the MBI 200-1,5/S model. This machine was mounted on a trailer chassis and has a horizontal range under the bridge of up to 65 ft. 7 in. Using the additionally delivered platform extension, even 72 ft. 2 in. can be reached under the bridge.

In order to make the crossing of the existing fuse boxes possible, the machine was additionally equipped with an elevating frame, which makes a crossing height of up to 11 ft. 9 in. possible.

In some places the bridge demanded a larger lowering depth than that provided by a standard MOOG unit. Again, a suitable solution was found by shortening the frame 3 ft. 3 in. and extending the tower by 6 ft. 6 in. The maximum lowering depth of the under-bridge access unit on the Hong Kong Link Road is therefore 40 ft. 4 in.

In addition, the bridge underside presented challenges with some very deep hollow box girders in place, for which access had to also be guaranteed. For this purpose a hydraulic Alplift was provided, which can be mounted inside the telescopic platform. With this a working height of up to 36 ft. 1 in. can be achieved. Two smaller scaffolds can be used to inspect hollow box girders with less depth. These can be combined in three different variants (working heights of 13 ft. 1 in. or 16 ft. 4 in.) and can be used on the base and/or telescopic platform.

Not only the upward inspection is made possible by the additional equipment of this under-bridge access unit, but also the inspection into the depths below: The pier inspection basket reaches lowering depths of up to 164 ft. and thereby permits the assessment of the bridge piers.

A hydraulic crane has also been installed at the front of the trailer to lift both to the platform, the optional equipment described above and various materials required for inspection and service.

Auxiliary equipment is completed with a wired remote control and night lighting.

The machine was shipped to the customer in mid-September 2017. The on-site training took place in late October.

The trailer is driven out onto the bridge.

Moog GmbH photo

The main tower raised up.

Moog GmbH photo

Then over the edge of the bridge.

Moog GmbH photo

Allowing a cantilevered work platform to be extended underneath the roadway.

Moog GmbH photo

Like so.


The Tsing Ma Bridge also has a bridge inspection unit – a Barin AB 23/SL unit, which uses a multi-jointed hydraulic boom lift to manoeuvre a work platform around the bridge.

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Trailer cars on the MTR Light Rail

Out in the New Territories of Hong Kong the MTR Light Rail system operates a relatively homogeneous fleet of light rail vehicles, split up into five ‘Phases’ delivered between 1988 and 2022. But there is one oddity in the fleet – the handful of powered trailer cars.

Phase 1 LRV 1033 coupled to Phase 2 LRV trailer 1209

Taking a look around

Trailer cars on the MTR Light Rail are a tad tricky to spot, as light rail vehicles can couple up with a classmate to form a two car train.

Refurbished Phase I and original Phase II MTR LRVs cross paths opposite the Light Rail depot

Coupled up in the middle.

A ‘C’ sign being used to indicate the rear of a coupled LRV set.

'C' sign (indicating the rear of a coupled LRV set) on the rear of coupled Phase 2 LRV trailer 1209

But the second vehicle in this consist is different to the rest.

MTR Phase II LRV 1074 and trailer 1205 on route 507 at Tai Hing North

The trailers have an angled front end much like their conventional cousins.

Phase II LRV 1089 coupled to powered trailer 1203

And a pantograph on the roof.

MTR Phase II LRV 1089 and trailer 1207 on route 507 at Tai Hing North

But lack the large windscreen and destination board on the front.

Phase 1 LRV 1033 coupled to Phase 2 LRV trailer 1209

Passengers able to use the space normally dedicated to the drivers cab.

Open front windscreen of Phase II LRV powered trailer 1203

But the trailers still have a set of hostler controls hiding in a cabinet.

Main hostler control cabinet beneath front windscreen onboard Phase II LRV powered trailer 1203

And a second cabinet of controls beneath the right side windscreen.

Secondary hostler control cabinet beneath right side windscreen onboard Phase II LRV powered trailer 1203

Replicating the controls found inside a standard light rail vehicle.

Which allows the trailers to be moved around the depot under their own power.

CC-BY-SA photo by Loyinwai, via hkrail.fandom.com

Some history

The first trailers did not enter service on the Light Rail system until 1992, with the arrival of the Phase 2 LRVs built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries of Japan. Two types of car were built: D cars (motor car with driving cab) and MT cars (motored trailer car). The 20 cab cars were numbered 1071-1090, while 10 trailers were numbered 1201–1210.

Kawasaki Heavy Industries photo

In the years that followed, neither the Phase 3 LRVs from 1997 or the Phase 4 LRVs from 2009 featured trailer cars.

As of 2022 the Phase 2 LRVs are currently being withdrawn from service, replaced by the new Phase 5 LRVs built by CRRC Nanjing Puzhen Rolling Stock.

As with all other LRVs, they can be coupled up to their classmates.

But the decision was made for this order to include 10 trailer cars.

Standard Phase 5 LRVs are numbered 1133-1162, and the trailer cars 1211-1220.


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The return of cross-boundary freight trains to Hong Kong

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world greatly in the past few years, and in March 2022 it saw the return of something gone for a decade – freight trains between Hong Kong and China.

Hong Kong Government photo

The problem

Freight trains once used the MTR East Rail line, transporting live pigs to the slaughterhouse, container trains, and bulk mail, but ended in 2010 due to a decline in usage.

However the COVID-19 pandemic saw freight transport disrupted between Hong Kong and China.

After the Spring Festival in 2022, Hong Kong was hit by the Omicron virus and ushered in an unprecedented fourth wave of the epidemic. Since Hong Kong and the mainland have not been able to clear customs, and Hong Kong people returning to the mainland have to go through a series of strict quarantines before they can use the mainland for their own activities, I thought that the Hong Kong epidemic was limited to the area south of the Shenzhen-Hong Kong border, but the surface Under the calm, there is an undercurrent surging.

At the same time, cross-border logistics truck passages that have been transporting materials to Hong Kong for a long time have also seen cross-border drivers disqualified for failing to work in accordance with epidemic prevention regulations, and more and more drivers were diagnosed and unable to return to work in the mainland. The cargo volume of the land and port plummeted, causing the prices of vegetables, meat and other food in Hong Kong to soar.

A barbed wire fence was erected on the Luohu Bridge in February 2022, for fear that someone would try to sneak between Hong Kong and China via the railway tracks.

Photo via Trainnets.com

But some people remembered the days when fresh food came to Hong Kong by train – including He Junxian, a member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council for fisheries and agriculture, who spoke at the meeting of the Hong Kong Legislative Council on February 16, 2022.

“Hong Kong used to have three express trains a day to supply fresh food to Hong Kong. The facilities still exist. It may not be necessary to use the intercity train to deliver the goods to the city center, but the Sheung Shui Slaughterhouse actually still has a railway connection. Through this railway, it only takes 10 minutes to reach Sheung Shui. If the government has the courage to coordinate, it can discuss with Ng Fung Hong whether this place is suitable for their use, or study whether some places can be lent to ensure the supply of some food. Although it is temporarily unusable for vegetables, it is still needed for live pigs. If one of the more than 10 pig truck drivers is infected and may even stop for a while, can the authorities start some research at this moment to make use of the old railway between Sheung Shui and Qingshui River, and Let the central government coordinate and transport the pigs in this way?”

And it appears the wheels started turning, as a week later, the decision was made to implement a cross-border freight service.

On February 24, 2022, the cross-border railway freight train project for Hong Kong was officially launched. Shenzhen formed the Shenzhen Railway Office, the Municipal Hong Kong and Macao Office, the Municipal Port Office, Guangzhou Railway Group, Shenzhen Customs, Shenzhen Border Inspection, Shenzhen International, and Sinotrans. The company and the working group with Longgang District as the main members began to communicate with relevant departments of the Hong Kong SAR government and the MTR Corporation.

Preparations begin

First a freight terminal at each end had to be arranged for the new rail service.

With the rapid development of Shenzhen, Sungang Station, which used to be responsible for operating the “three express trains”, has long been transformed into a modern depot, and the disinfection and quarantine facilities in the past have long since ceased to exist.

Therefore, Shenzhen decided to load the goods at the Pinghu Hunan National Logistics Hub built for container trains. There are supporting container transshipment equipment here, which can fully undertake this important task.

As for the MTR, the Luohu Marshalling Station next to the Luohu Station of the East Rail Line was also selected. This is also the place where the “Metro Cammell EMU” was dismantled recently.

And rolling stock had to be sourced.

The selection of locomotives must be diesel locomotives, because there is no catenary line to facilitate the rapid replacement of containers, and the active diesel locomotives that have entered the port are only DF4B passenger type and DF11 type.

The initial plan discussed with the MTR was to use DF11 diesel locomotives for traction, but later, Guangzhou Railway considered the existing use of locomotives. For example, the DF11 locomotives of Guangzhou Railway will also undertake the hot backup rescue work of various high-speed railway lines in the management, so the DF4B passenger locomotive was finally selected, which is what we call “orange”. It was more than 20 years ago that the DF4B passenger locomotive entered the port.

The train consist was chosen to suit the available sidings.

At the same time, in order to save the time for changing ends, the marshalling form of locomotive + flat car + locomotive is determined. According to the length of the sidings, the container flat car in the middle is also determined to be a 9-car marshalling. The 70t container flat car commonly used in China was chosen.

27 February saw the first trial train operate at Lo Wu.

In the morning, the Hong Kong Transport and Housing Bureau, the MTR and the freight industry conducted a test at the Lo Wu Marshalling Yard. Using a ER20 diesel locomotive and rail cars produced by Dalian Plant to simulate combined trains, and at the same time conduct container lifting and unloading tests in railway freight yards.

And on 1 March an empty train made a trial run across the border.

On that day, the empty train went to Hong Kong for the test. The test train originally scheduled for 9 o’clock in the morning “missed the appointment” again.

Until the afternoon, the Propaganda Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China arrived at the Pinghu Hunan Freight Yard with many central media, and filmed the preparation and departure of the empty truck that day.

After entering Hong Kong, the test train cooperated with the MTR, connected with the ER20 locomotive, and carried out related tests such as braking.

Completing tests to Lo Wu.

Photo via Trainnets.com

And the service begins

The first official freight service departed Shenzhen on 2 March 2022.

Sinotrans photo

Crossing the border at Lo Wu soon after.

深圳新时速 photo, via Trainnets.com

And arriving into the marshalling yard on the Hong Kong side.

伍博 photo, via Trainnets.com

Stopped in the sidings.

Photo by Doraemonpaul via hkrail.fandom.com

Reach stackers unloading the containers.

Hong Kong Government photo

While the politicians posed for a photo opportunity.

Hong Kong Government photo

The Hong Kong government issuing a media release the same day.

​The railway transportation of goods from the Mainland to Hong Kong commenced today (March 2), with the first train carrying about 50 tonnes of anti-epidemic supplies arriving at Hong Kong this morning.

​The Chief Executive, Mrs Carrie Lam, and the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Mr Frank Chan Fan, together with the Director General of the Youth Department of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Mr Zhang Zhihua; the Chief Executive Officer of the MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL), Dr Jacob Kam; and the Assistant President of the China Merchants Group Limited, Mr Chu Zongsheng, and others, welcomed the first train transporting goods from the Mainland to Hong Kong at the MTR Lo Wu Marshalling and Railway Freight Yard.

The first cross-boundary cargo train carried nine freight wagons, with 18 containers of anti-epidemic supplies, including COVID-19 rapid antigen test kits, protective clothing, etc. The goods were transported from the Pinghu South Railway Freight Yard in Shenzhen to the Lo Wu Railway Freight Yard in Hong Kong, with a journey of about 40 minutes. There will be one cross-boundary train trip per day at the early stage of the operation. Subject to the demand and handling capacity of the freight yard, train operation will be enhanced progressively.

​Once again, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government expresses gratitude to the Central Government, the Guangdong Provincial Government and the Shenzhen Municipal People’s Government for their staunch support all along. Together, the HKSAR Government and the Mainland authorities have explored and implemented various measures to ensure stable goods supply from the Mainland to Hong Kong. The HKSAR Government also particularly thanks the China State Railway Group Co., Ltd, the China Railway Guangzhou Group Company Limited, the MTRCL and the trade for their active support and facilitation, as well as the effort of various government departments, which have facilitated the launch of the cross-boundary cargo train within a short period of time.

​The HKSAR Government will monitor the situation closely, and continue to work closely with the Mainland authorities, in order to facilitate and implement various measures to ensure a stable goods supply to Hong Kong as well as to optimise the operation of cross-boundary transportation of supplies.

The first train to Hong Kong transported 1,106,560 coronavirus nucleic acid detection kits, 20,000 pieces of protective clothing, and other medical supplies loaded on eighteen 20-foot containers. The one-way trip took 35 minutes.

A total of three return trains were timetabled for the cross-border service, but only one train per day initially ran. From 9 March 2022 the frequency was increased to twice a day, but following a coronavirus wave in Shenzhen from March 18, 2022 the service was dropped back to once a day.

Footnote: quarantine and the Lo Wu border crossing

It’s a little bit lost in translation, but a convoluted procedure has been established to quarantine the staff operating the cross-border rail service.

According to the “China Railway” micro-signal introduction, the Guangzhou Bureau Group Corporation implements closed-loop management of the drivers of the Central Railway’s aid to Hong Kong trains, requiring them to implement centralized management and health monitoring after returning from Hong Kong.

After the health monitoring is over, the nucleic acid test results are all negative before the cross-port transportation task can be continued. After the train driver arrives in Hong Kong, the activity area will be defined as the “two points and one line” between the train and the rest area.

The railway department has also strengthened the management of epidemic prevention and control, and set up “red and green zones” in railway freight yards in accordance with the requirements of epidemic prevention and control. The “red zone” is the unloading area of ​​inbound goods, customs inspection, container and cargo disinfection; the “green zone” is the loading area of ​​inbound goods after disinfection and the loading of mainland supplies to Hong Kong. Set “soft isolation” between “red zone” and “green zone”.

In accordance with the principle of “one train, one operation, one disinfection”, the railway freight yard carries out disinfection in the whole process. A disinfection work ledger is established for all goods, and the disinfection situation is recorded in detail to ensure the safety of materials.

But an even more bizarre procedure is sending out railway staff to disinfect the railway tracks after the train passed over them.

深圳新时速 photo, via Trainnets.com

I wonder what infection risk that was intended to address.


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When Hongkong Post rode the rails to China

There was once a time when Hongkong Post used the MTR East Rail line to transport mail across the border into Mainland China. This is the story of these trains.

Photo by MJ2927 via hkrail.fandom.com

Some history

The completion of the Kowloon Canton Railway in 1911 provided a new route for mail going into Mainland China, and starting from 1912, all mail between Great Britain and the Far East travelled by the Trans-Siberian Railway unless marked for sea mail.

In June 1980 the transport of mail by rail was sped up following the completion of the International Mail Center, located at Hung Hom next door to the new KCR terminus at Kowloon. The two-story complex of 13,160 square meters was equipped with a mechanised mail sorting system capable of handing 100 tonnes of mail every day, and had a dedicated railway platform for the transfer of mail onto trains.

The International Mail Centre remained the main sorting location for inbound and outbound mail until 1998, when Kai Tak Airport moved to Chek Lap Kok, and a new Air Mail Center was opened at Hong Kong International Airport.

Watching the shunt move at the International Mail Centre was a popular pastime for local railfans, with the forecourt of the Hong Kong Coliseum providing a convenient viewing location of the entire area.

HKRail.net video

But in the years that followed, the usage of rail freight in Hong Kong declined, and by 2008 rail freight accounted for only 0.08% of the total freight throughput between the Mainland and Hong Kong, with around 30 TEUs of containers a day, along with 3,000 kilograms of mail.

Towards the end of freight operations the longest trains consisted of 10 to 20 wagons, with a mix of enclosed boxvans and open wagons loaded with containers, upon which the white and orange liveried mail vans supplied by the China Railways would be attached.

But often it was just the single mail van making up the train.

Photo by 1010.505 via hkrail.fandom.com

And on some occasions, diesel locomotives outnumbered the wagons following behind!

Photo by MJ2927 via hkrail.fandom.com

The final nail in the coffin of Hong Kong rail freight was delivered in 29 October 2009, when the MTR (successor of the KCRC after the completion of the rail merger) announced that they would exit the freight business.

The MTR justified the decision as follows:

After careful study, the Corporation has decided to wind down its freight business over the next several months to better utilize train paths currently being used for the freight business to provide greater flexibility for passenger train service, benefiting the people of Hong Kong.

The International Mail Center at Hung Hom was forced to switch to road transport of mail to Mainland China.

International Mail Centre at Hung Hom

With the final chapter coming in 2014, when the International Mail Center was demolished to make way for the Shatin to Central Link project.

Replaced by the newly built Central Mail Center at Kowloon Bay.

Footnote: mail vans

During the 1990s mail trains into Hong Kong used UZ22 postal carriages supplied by the China Railways, which were replaced by the newer UZ25B carriages by the time the service ceased running.


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