Hong Kong’s rail network is being transformed by the Shatin to Central Link project, with one of those changes being the expansion of trains on the West Rail line from 7 to 8 cars.
The story of West Rail starts in the 1990s with the ‘Western Corridor Railway’ that would link the new towns in the north-west New Territories to the urban areas of Kowloon. The Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation initially proposed the use of 12-car long trains, the same as the East Rail Line.
But following value engineering exercises the decision was made to shrink trains to 9-cars long, with overall capacity of the line retained by running trains more frequently – every 90 seconds instead of 120.
The first stage of West Rail opened in December 2003 between Tuen Mun and Nam Cheong, being extended to Hung Hom in August 2009 following the completion of the Kowloon Southern Link beneath central Kowloon.
Seven-car long trains provided the initial services.
But platforms were constructed with enough space to serve longer trains.
The platform screen doors just locked out of use.
The end game for West Rail being something bigger – to extend the line through the densely populated districts of Kowloon City, and join up with the Ma On Shan Line at Tai Wai, forming the ‘East West Corridor‘.
This proposal was given the go ahead in 2012, in what is now known as the ‘Sha Tin to Central Link‘.
Extending the trains
A longer railway means more passengers – so the West Rail line trains need to be extended.
With a two pronged approach taken – 17 new 8-car trains were purchased from Changchun Railway Vehicles at a cost of HK$1.38 billion.
And 36 additional carriages were purchased from the Itochu-Kinki Sharyo-Kawasaki Consortium at a cost of HK$1.18 billion, to allow the 348 existing SP1900 EMUs to be reconfigured as a fleet of 65 eight-car trains.
Reconfiguration of the SP1900 trains commended in January 2016, with trains being transferred behind diesel locomotives to Pat Heung depot.
Where the carriages are turned by crane to suit their new configuration.
With the program completed in May 2018.
Mixing 7 and 8-car trains
Between January 2016 and May 2018 a mix of 7 and 8-car trains operated on the West Rail line.
The platform information display system was updated to show the length of arriving trains.
Signage on the platform and platform screen doors indicating where trains will stop.
Pink for 7-car long trains.
And green for 8-cars.
Platform signage at Hung Hom station is a little confusing – West Rail line train cars are numbered from the Tuen Mun end, but Hung Hom bound trains all stop at the northern end of that platform, no matter the number of carriages.
Which results in the carriage numbers being offset by one, depending on how long the train is.
- First West Rail Line 8-car train ready for passenger service from January 2016 (MTR Corporation)
- MTR adds eight-car trains to Hong Kong’s West Rail Line (South China Morning Post)
- Value engineering West Rail (The Arup Journa)
- MTR SP1900 EMU at Wikipedia
- MTR CRRC Changchun EMU at Wikipedia
- West Rail line at Wikipedia
- Sha Tin to Central Link at Wikipedia