Thanks to the sheer size of the network, travelling from one side of Hong Kong to another on the MTR usually involves a change of train somewhere along the way. But what if it was possible to stay on one train the entire way? This is actually possible – but with a number of caveats.
When looking at the public version of MTR network map, things look pretty simple – an array of independent routes, with a multitude of interchange stations allowing passengers to change from one line to another.
But if you drill down into the detail found on this track diagram from the MTR之今昔 website, a new level of complexity emerges.
A spaghetti bowl of track!
So where do the tracks connect?
I’ve looked at MTR interchange stations before, categorising them by the passengers experience – but this time around, let’s look at the physical connection for trains.
Tsuen Wan Line and Island Line
- Track connection at the western end of Admiralty station, with stub sidings entered from westbound track, allowing trains to change direction and pass onto the eastbound track.
Island Line and Tung Chung Line
- No track connection at Hong Kong Station.
Island Line and South Island Line
- No track connection at Admiralty Station.
Island Line and Tseung Kwan O Line
- No track connection at North Point or Quarry Bay stations.
Kwun Tong Line and Tseung Kwan O Line
- Track connection at east end of Lam Tin Station heads into the Eastern Harbour Tunnel.
- Track connection at west end of Tin Keng Leng Station.
Kwun Tong Line and Tsuen Wan Line
- Track connections at the departure end of Mong Kok station in both directions.
East Rail Line and Kwun Tong Line
- No track connection at Kowloon Tong Station.
East Rail Line and Tsuen Wan Line
- No track connection at Tsim Sha Tsui Station.
West Rail Line and Tsuen Wan Line
- No track connection at Mei Foo Station.
West Rail Line and Tung Chung Line
- No track connection at Nam Cheong Station.
Tung Chung Line and Tsuen Wan Line
- Track connection at southern end of Lai King Station, linking both Tsuen Wan Line tracks to citybound Tung Chung Line track.
Tung Chung Line and Disneyland Resort Line
- Track connection at the western end of Sunny Bay Station to westbound Tung Chung track.
West Rail Line and East Rail Line
- Track connection at Hung Hom Station platform 3.
East Rail Line and Ma On Shan Line
- Track connection at Tai Wai Station from southbound East Rail Line to northbound Ma On Shan Line.
Putting the two together
If one takes this geographically accurate map of the MTR network and strips out the stations, leaving only the physical track connections between lines, you get this.
Pretty sparse, isn’t it?
Putting the connections to use
The connection between the West Rail and East Rail at Hung Hom is used to move SP1900 trains to Pat Heung Depot.
While the connection at Sunny Bay, Lai King and Mong Kok allow Disneyland Resort Line trains to visit Kowloon Bay Depot.
But one notable lack of connections is between the former MTR and KCR networks – they use incompatible electrification schemes: the MTR uses 1500 V DC while the KCR was 25 kV AC.
The MTR did consider building a track connection at Kowloon Tong Station on the Kwun Tong line for the delivery of MTR trains via the KCR tracks but that plan was abandoned, and the tunnel never completed.
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There’s another catch: the MTR-KCR rail link was never done because the track gauges were different. If you read up, the MTR lines (pre-merger) used the 1,432 mm track gauge while the KCR lines used the 1,435 mm track gauge. Sometimes a 3 mm difference can really complicate things…
(though I’m confused by the Wikipedia article on the Island Line: it claims that the Sheung Wan – Chai Wan section runs 1,432 mm while the Kennedy Town extension runs 1,435 mm, and the same could be said of the Kwun Tong line article, claiming the Whampoa extension runs standard gauge. Maybe the MTR trains were indeed double-gauged…)
3mm is pretty much a rounding error – from what I’ve read the slightly tighter gauge means less ‘hunting’ by train wheels, so at low speeds you could probably run trains between the two gauges without much issue.
I do not really think the ISL and the then KTL (now TKOL) really does not have a connection.
That section of track was built as part of the Quarry Bay Congestion Relief Project.
A brochure on it is here:
It included a new 4.2 km tunnel from Quarry Bay, and two additional platforms at North Point.
This new tunnel replaced the single track turnback and overrun tunnel at Quarry Bay beneath Braemar Hill.
The old turnback closed in 2001, the empty tunnel is still there today.
The overlap of the tunnels at Tin Hau is shown here.
And some more detail here:
According to these posts, a physical connection was planned, but track changes to the Island line would require a permanent speed limit of 55 km/h through the junction, so the idea was abandoned. But it was decided to still build the tunnels to serve the future North Island Line project, that would see the Tseung Kwan O and Tung Chung lines merge with the Island line.