Operating divisions of the MTR rail network

To the everyday passenger Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway network comes across as a single system. But from an operational and technology perspective, it is actually a number of smaller systems.

One grouping is the “Urban Lines” (URL) or 市區綫 – made up of the:

  • Island Line,
  • Kwun Tong Line,
  • Tsuen Wan Line,
  • Tseung Kwan O Line,
  • South Island Line.

The geographically isolated “Lantau Airport Railway” (LAR):

  • Airport Express Line,
  • Tung Chung Line.

Later expanded to be the “AT&D“:

  • Airport Express Line,
  • Tung Chung Line,
  • Disneyland Resort Line.

Giving the “DUAT Lines“:

  • Disneyland Resort Line,
  • Urban Lines,
  • Airport Express Line,
  • Tung Chung Line.

Which sit alongside the “WELM Lines“:

  • West Rail,
  • East Rail,
  • Light Rail,
  • Ma On Shan Line.

Clear as mud?

So why the groupings?

The MTR network has roots in two separate rail systems – the original MTR underground network, and the former KCR above ground network. There are no track connections between the two networks, and they use incompatible electrification schemes: the MTR uses 1500 V DC while the KCR was 25 kV AC.

In addition, the two networks used a different platform heights.

  • MTR Urban Lines: 1,100 mm (43.307 in)
  • MTR Lantau Airport Railway: 1,250 mm (49.213 in)
  • KCR lines: 42 in (1,066.8 mm)

The operations of the MTRC and KCRC were merged in 2007, with fare integration for passengers being the first order of business, but integration of train control systems taking until 2013 to be completed.

It is not expected that any further integration will take place, hence the mutually exclusive DUAT and WELM Lines, and new projects such as the Shatin to Central Link maintaining the standards of their own “side” of the network.

Footnote: seeing the terms in use

Here’s one example of the network groupings being used – URL and AT&D in a tender for cleaning services:

Package 1

Cleaning of all station areas including kiosks of URL except track-side related cleaning, electrical and plantroom areas and high level area cleaning

Package 2

Cleaning of all station areas including kiosks of AT&D except track-side related cleaning, electrical and plantroom areas and high level area cleaning


The DUAT Signalling Replacement Project is to replace the signalling systems for six MTR linesand the Airport Express Line with the new signalling systems using Communications Based TrainControl (CBTC) technology. The six MTR lines include Tsuen Wan Line, Island Line, Kwun TongLine, Tsuen Kwan O Line, Disneyland Resort Line, and Tung Chung Line.

Lantau Airport Railway“:

MTR Corporation Limited invites qualified contractors to express their interest in tendering for the works for the migration of the operating systems riding on the existing Corporate Data Network (CDN) in Lantau Airport Railway (LAR) , i.e. Airport Express and Tung Chung Line as well as Disneyland Resort Line.

And an interesting one – different power supply standards for the DUAT and WELM lines:

AC motors shall be of squirrel-cage, induction type, and shall be suitable for 415 V (for DUAT lines) or 380 V (for WELM lines), 3-phase, 50 Hz supply. Only motors with rating 1 kW or below may be 240 V (for DUAT lines) or 220 V (for WELM lines), 1-phase, 50 Hz.

And finally – more alphabet soup

Each line on the MTR also has it’s own abbreviation.

  • East Rail Lines: ERL
    • East Rail Line EAL
    • Ma On Shan Line MOL
  • Lantau Airport Railway: LAR
    • Airport Express Line AEL
    • Disneyland Resort Line DRL
    • Tung Chung Line TCL
  • Light Rail LRL
  • Urban Lines: URL
    • Island Line ISL
    • Kwun Tong Line KTL
    • Tseung Kwan O Line TKL
    • Tsuen Wan Line TWL
    • South Island Line SIL
  • West Rail Line WRL
  • Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link XRL
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9 Responses to Operating divisions of the MTR rail network

  1. Geoffrey Hansen says:

    Very interesting subject.

    Why do original MTR lines have a different gauge to the former KCRC lines?

    Also is there a physical link between the Lantau Airport Railway and the Urban lines?

  2. Pingback: Hidden track connections between MTR lines - Checkerboard Hill

  3. A Meow Cat says:

    There’s a reason the MTR didn’t bother to further integrate the WELM and DUAT systems – the MTR-KCR merger thing in 2007 was only meant to be in effect for 50 years, i.e. the KCRC will take back the EWL, NSL and the light rail and feeder bus systems. So why build the integration connection when the operators are going to go separate ways in 35 years?

  4. Pingback: 1500 V DC railway electrification in Hong Kong - Checkerboard Hill

  5. SY Chu says:

    What are the divisions now called after the renaming of WRL and MOL to TML?

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