MTR Light Rail: rolling stock

A few days ago I started my my coverage of the Hong Kong’s MTR light rail with a post about the network itself, so this post with cover the Light Rail Vehicle (LRV) fleet itself. There are four different ‘phases’ of LRV that look slightly different but have the same general design, being single ended single car vehicles that can operate as coupled pairs.

Tail end of MTR Phase I LRV 1039 on route 614 in Yuen Long

Each LRV is around 20 meters long and has a single cab: the 3 pairs of doors are on the left side, and balloon loops are provided at each terminus. They use standard gauge (1435 mm) track and 750V DC electrification: the standards used on most modern light rail networks. I’m going to pinch the vehicle stats from the MTR Light Rail article over at Wikipedia.

Phase 1 LRVs entered service in 1988, being built at the Comeng factory in Dandenong, Australia: the same place where much of Melbourne’s modern tram car fleet was built. With 70 cars in the fleet, numbered 1001–1070, they carry 43 sitting passengers and 161 standees. The current LED destination boards replaced the original roller blind at some point in the past.

LRV 1004 is named ‘LRT Pioneer’ – it was the first unit to arrive in Hong Kong, beating class leader 1001 to be the first LRV to operate on the new network.

Phase 1 LRV 1004 named "LRT Pioneer" departs Yuen Long station on route 615

The Phase 1 LRV is the only one to lack an emergency exit door at the rear: a kickout window is provided instead.

LRV among a field of apartment blocks

I didn’t pay enough attention to the interiors of each LRV phase, but as of 2010 at least the Phase 1 units still have their original, very orange interior. Looking forward there is 1 + 2 seating, with some extra standing / wheelchair areas located opposite the doorways:

Looking forwards along Phase 1 LRV 1044

Looking towards the rear of the LRV: since they only travel in one direction, the majority of seats face the front.

Looking back inside Phase 1 LRV 1044

With the Phase 1 LRV fleet approaching over 20 years old, in 2007 the KCR contracted United Group to refurbish the 68 remaining Phase 1 vehicles.

Phase I LRV 1023 on Castle Peak Road in Yuen Long

Onboard refurbished Phase I LRV 1011

Completed between 2011 and 2013, the upgraded LRVs are virtually indistinguishable from the new built Phase 4 units.

Phase 2 LRVs entered in service in 1992, built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries to almost the same design as the Phase 1, stock. Able to carry 26 sitting and 185 standing passengers, two types of car were built: D cars (motor car with driving cab) and MT cars (motored trailer car). The 20 cab cars are numbered 1071-1090, while 10 trailers are numbered 1201–1210. As with the phase 1 units, the current LED destination boards replaced the original roller blind at some point in the past

Phase 2 LRV 1076 arrives at Siu Hong on route 615

Since the trailer cars are powered they still have a pantograph on the roof, as seen here, and are controlled from the lead car via electrical connections in the multifunction coupler. For some reason the lead end of the trailer is still fitted with headlights, even though I see no use for them.

Phase 1 LRV 1033 coupled to Phase 2 LRV trailer 1209

Phase 2 LRVs introduced the rear emergency exit door to the fleet, this feature being retained in all later deliveries.

Phase 2 LRV trailer 1204 departs Siu Hong on route 751

Phase 2 LRVs are due to be retired once the new Phase 5 LRVs enter serivce in 2023.

Phase 3 LRVs entered service in 1997, built by United Gonian to a slightly different design to the earlier units. Able to carry 26 seating and 212 standing passengers, the 20 cars are numbered 1091–1110.

Phase 3 LRV 1102 arrives at Siu Hong on route 610

Phase 4 LRVs entered service in December 2009 and are the newest members of the fleet, having a much more curved and modern look. Built by United Gonian and China South Locomotive & Rolling Stock Corporation Limited (CSR) the 20 cars are numbered 1111–1132.

Phase 4 LRVs 1122 and classmate departs Yuen Long station on route 761P

Phase 5 LRVs were ordered in 2016 from CRRC Nanjing Puzhen. 40 new vehicles have been purchased at a cost of HK$700 million, 30 vehicles to replace the aging Phase 2 LRVs, the other 10 to expand the MTR fleet to 150 vehicles. A mix of standard and trailer carriages have been ordered, number 1133-1162 (standard) and 1211-1220 (trailer).

MTR Photo

Spotting features

The spotting features between the phases are as follows:

  • Phase 1:
    • No air conditioning unit above the cab.
    • Destination board overhangs the cab windscreen.
    • A kick out rear window for the emergency exit, not a door like the others.
  • Phase 2:
    • Air conditioner above the cab.
    • Destination board overhangs the cab windscreen.
  • Phase 3:
    • Sleeker front, with the destination board being on the same plane as the cab windscreen.
    • Yellow destination board, not orange like the others.
  • Phase 4:
    • White livery.
    • Cab front with curves.
    • Rear emergency exit door.
  • Phase 5:
    • White livery.
    • Flat sides.


The original livery of the Light Rail fleet under the KCR was orange and white, as seen in this builders photo of a Phase 2 LRV.

Kawasaki Heavy Industries photo

The blue, red and yellow livery was introduced by the KCR around the same time as they refurbished their East Rail line trains: that change was made in 1996-1999.

With the 2007 MTR-KCR rail merger, the KCR logos were changed for those of the MTR, but no other major changes were made.

Phase 2 LRV 1081 arrives at Siu Hong on route 610

The newest livery is that worn by the newly delivered Phase 4 units: devised by MTR it is mostly white with lime, mauve and purple lines down the side. Refurbished Phase 1 units, new build Phase 5 units, and MTR feeder buses have also been repainted into this new livery.

Phase 4 LRVs 1122 and classmate arrive at Yuen Long station on route 761P

Coupled sets

I mentioned the operation of coupled LRV consists earlier. To allow this fold away multifunction couplers are provided at the front and rear of each LRV. With the 1990s KCR livery the leading end is yellow, and the rear is red, so they are easy to tell apart.

Swing away coupler at the front of Phase 1 LRV 1040: all LRV units have the same arrangement

The rear car of a coupled LRV set will have a small ‘C’ sign attached onto the bumper. I assume it serves as an ‘end of train’ marker: if a driver finds a single LRV in front of him with a ‘C’ showing, then something has gone a bit wrong, with the lead LRV (and driver!) gone missing. Even the trailer cars have a rear coupler: the builder says they can add an extra car to run in trains of up to three LRVs long.

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

Despite only 10 trailer cars being in the fleet, it appears that any LRV can be used as a trailer if required, provided they are coupled to a LRV of the same phase. The mixing of the different LRV phases in coupled operation does not appear to occur: I am not sure if this is due to any actual operational limitations, or just a desire to run trains that ‘look nice’ by mixing different looking LRVs. The only exception to mixed sets I found was Phase 1 driving units leading Phase 2 trailers.

The couplers themselves look to be the same design on each phase of LRV. The electrical connections are made on only one side of the coupler, with what looks to be two sets of circuits: orange and yellow. There also appears to be a single air hose at the bottom.

Multifunction coupler head of a Phase 1 LRV

Multifunction coupler between Phase 4 LRVs

To finish up my coverage of the MTR Light Rail: a quick test. Can you tell a Phase 1 and a Phase 2 LRV apart?

Phase 2Phase 1

Hover your mouse over a photo for the answer!

February 2020 update

I’ve updated the page to cover the refurbished Phase 1 LRVs, the retirement of the Phase 2 fleet, and their Phase 5 replacements.

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13 Responses to MTR Light Rail: rolling stock

  1. Pingback: A touch of Australia in Hong Kong | Checkerboard Hill

  2. Herb Fong says:

    Wow! Really nice pictures! I’ve noticed that very recent pictures of the Light Rail, the previous generations of light rail vehicles have been refurbished to the Phase IV appearance. Because of the new appearance, the main difference between Phase IV and the refurbished units I noticed was the shape of the air conditioning units on the roof as well as the shapes of the windows. I don’t know if you made a visit to HK within this year, but the pictures of the refurbished units would be a really good addition to this article.

    • Hi Herb, glad you like the photos and found my post useful.

      As for the Phase 1 LRVs, I haven’t been back to Hong Kong since they entered service in early 2011.

      This photo by Daryl Chapman shows a solo #1026:

      While this photo by Gordon Graham shows a refurbished Phase 1 LRV coupled to a non-refurbished classmate:

      The 2012 MTR Annual Report has the following to say on the refurbished Phase 1 LRVs:

      On 30 November 2007, KCRC entered into the Original Contract with UGL (the “Original Contract”), for the refurbishment of the Phase 1 LRVs for a period of 45 months from 30 November 2007 to 31 August 2011.

      The Supplemental Agreement extends the Original Contract for a further period of 16 months from 31 August 2011 until 31 December 2012.

      A second supplemental agreement was entered into by the Company and UGL on 21 December 2011 (the “Second Supplemental Agreement”) which extended the Original Contract to 31 December 2013.

      In consideration of UGL providing the Refurbishment Works (defined below) under the Original Contract, the Company is obliged to pay UGL a total sum of approximately HK$48,260,000 (excluding amounts for variations and additional works).

      The Supplemental Agreement extended the scope of the Refurbishment Works of the Original Contract and the consideration payable by the Company to UGL for such extension is HK$83,736,143, as adjusted by an additional HK$14,435,327 and further increased by the Second
      Supplemental Agreement by an additional HK$34,957,178.

      So MTR paid HK$83,736,143 for the refurbishment of their Phase 1 LRVs.

  3. Pingback: Melbourne and Hong Kong trams: long lost siblings - Checkerboard Hill

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  5. chockle cheung says:

    the phase 1 lrvs have been refurbished to the phase 4 front.

  6. Pingback: Refurbishing the MTR Phase I Light Rail Vehicles - Checkerboard Hill

  7. Jacob Louie says:

    I just came across this photo of a trailer being driven all by itself. So I guess that’s why they have headlights.

  8. Pingback: Trailer cars on the MTR Light Rail - Checkerboard Hill

  9. Daniel Mak says:

    Some information for mistaken
    The Light Rail Phase 1 car not just build by Comeng at their Factory in Dandenong ,Melbourne.It also split the half contract to Rocklea Queensland. as Comeng fear would get delay penalty by KCR because the Industrial Strikes happen in Dandenong. Factory at the time.
    I’m one of the author in HKBF site for Hong Kong LRV Phase 1 Car History
    You could contact me through this email.

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