United Group Rail in Hong Kong

United Group is an Australian rail engineering company, which has been involved in the Hong Kong market for a quarter century.

'MTR train modernisation by Goninan' plaque onboard a MTR train

The most noticeable project was the modernisation of the MTR Metro-Cammel ‘M-Train’ EMU fleet in 1999-2001.

Running along a viaduct, a northbound train arrives into Kwai Fong station

But they were also responsible for the manufacture of twenty Phase III light rail vehicles, delivered to the KCR in 1997.

MTR Phase III LRV 1096 on route 751 at Hang Mei Tsuen

The ‘Goninan Quality’ logo hiding on the door treads.

'Goninan Quality' badge onboard Phase III LRV 1097

Since opening their Hong Kong office in 1996, other rollingstock projects in Hong Kong that UGL has been involved in include.

• 1996: Won the 1st contract to design and build 20 LRVs (Phase III) for KCRC in Hong Kong.
• 1999: Won the contract to modernize (refurbish) the entire MTR EMU fleet (762 cars), finished in 2001.
• 2002: Won the contract to maintain part of MTR EMU fleet (15×8 car trains = 120 cars) in 2002 for initially 7 years plus an option to extend another 7 years.
• 2003: Won the contract to convert 12 of MTR existing EMU cars to be HK Disney cars.
• 2007: Won the contract to design and build 22 new LRVs (Phase IV) for MTR/KCRC.
• 2009: Won the contract to upgrade the Phase I LRV (69 cars) for MTR/KCRC.
• 2009: MTR extended the EMU maintenance contract for 7 years to 2016.
• 2013: Signed contract with CNR Changchun to support ‘C’ stock

And by 2013 they had a local staff of 102:

• 15 Central Support (Procurement, Finance, Health & Safety, Engineering)
• 45 Refurbishment project
• 5 on depot operations
• 37 on maintenance contract

With upcoming projects including:

• Provides Level 1 maintenance for 120 passenger cars for the Kwun Tong Line
Time frame: Contract began 2002, Renewed 2009 for another 7 years up until 2016

• Provide refurbishment/life extension of 68 Phase I LRV for NT Light Rail services
Time frame: Contract began 2009, Completion 2013

• Provides Depot Operations, Security and Cleaning services for Island Line fleet at Tseung Kwan O depot
Time frame: Contract began 2002, Renewed 2009 for another 7 years up until 2016

• Provide 22 new Phase IV LRV for NT light rail services
Time frame: Contract began 2007, Completion 2013

But making a pivot from their Australian roots:

The team in Australia which comprises of over 120 engineers and project management staff are used to supplement the team in specialist areas such as welding technology, vehicles structural design and crashworthiness.

To their involvement with rollingstock manufacturers in Mainland China.

• For new build projects UGL Rail is able to partner with manufacturers from both the CNR and CSR groups of companies and UGL are able to lead consortiums (such as the one for the LRV supply to MTR) working with Chinese RS suppliers.
• The team recently managed the design and construction of 22 Light Rail vehicles for MTR in cooperation with CSR Nanjing‐Puzhen.
• The team were responsible for design, maintainability, design approval by client, on‐site commissioning, technical support during warranty period, warranty repair on site and reliability growth activities.
• Supply of spares and in‐service modifications has also been managed by the team.
• These vehicles are now the most reliable fleet within the MTR LRV fleet and are currently achieving over 35,000 km per 2 minute delay and 450,000 km per 5 minute delay.

Footnote: United Group in Australia

The history of United Group in Australia goes back even further.

Founded in Australia in 1899 by Cornish brothers Alfred and Ralph Goninan as an engineering and manufacturing company for the coal industry. A Goninan & Co Limited was incorporated as a public company in 1905.

It entered the rail business in 1917 via Commonwealth Steel Products Company of Waratah, Newcastle, a wheel and axle manufacturer because they could no longer be imported from Belgium due to World War I.

A Goninan & Co moved to more convenient freehold land at Broadmeadow in 1919 and built a flourishing business in general engineering. They made pitheads, boilers, wagons and a huge, cast 41-ton block for the district’s coal trade. In October 1964 A Goninan & Co was purchased by Howard Smith.

In August 1999 A Goninan & Co was sold to United Group and rebranded United Goninan. In 2005 it was renamed United Group Rail as part of a reorganisation following United Group purchasing of Alstom’s Australian subsidiary, Alstom Transport Australia and New Zealand. In October 2016, CIMIC Group launched a successful takeover offer for the company.

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3 Responses to United Group Rail in Hong Kong

  1. R Chan says:

    Not to toot the aussie horns too much, but the build quality of Australian railway products is clearly more respected, given apart from the refurbishment of M-stocks that gave them another life of 20yrs, the light rail vehicles of Phase 1 and 3 are being refurbished as well! (Probably looking at another 10 odd years of service before they are getting really really old) Whereas the Phase 2 vehicles are being scrapped already (for IMO, much better built Chinese LRVs than we could have bargained for a decade ago)

    It is a very big contrast of today’s Industrial Australia versus of the past, and shows that apart from Japan and Korea, all other new transit products in the region are relying on cheaper Chinese-made trains / vehicles.

    There is always a question of QC on Chinese made trains, but given their reliability has vastly improved in the past decade, as evidenced by rare breakdowns even on the mainland, I think haters just gonna have to hate on the ‘Made in China’ mark…

  2. Pingback: Modernising the MTR M-Train fleet - Checkerboard Hill

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