Mixing conventional and high speed trains in China

China’s high speed rail network is the biggest in the world, but not all of it is dedicated to high speed trains – on some routes conventional trains also share the tracks.

CRH380B high-speed train awaiting departure from Beijing South railway station

Combined traffic

Shanghai Railway Station was the first I came across. Once the main railway station for the city, today it mainly sees locomotive hauled long distance trains.

Electric locomotive SS7D 0016 departs Shanghai Railway Station with a rake of '25Z' class carriages

Along with a handful of CRH high-speed services – the fastest trains now use Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station to the west of the city.

China Railways CRH2 set arrives at Shanghai Railway Station

I found the same mix of trains at Beijing West Railway Station.

Looking down on platforms 12 and 13

My high speed train to Xian departing from one platform.

CRH380A train awaiting departure from Beijing West Railway Station

While passengers waited to board their locomotive hauled train on the opposite platform.

Food cart on the platform at Beijing West Railway Station

And separate

Between major cities, “passenger dedicated lines” (客运专线) have been built for high speed trains.

China Railways CRH2 high speed train arrives at Jinan West station

These new routes often run parallel to existing railway corridors.

Overtaking a HXD3C class hauled passenger train on the 'old' Shanghai-Beijing railway

Separating high speed trains from slower locomotive hauled trains.

Overtaking a red 'K' train on the 'old' railway alongside

As well as even slower freight trains.

Freight train heads out of Xian

Viaducts are often used to carry these new high speed rail routes.

Freight train passes below our high-speed train

Avoiding the need to acquire land at ground level.

Paralleling a CRH2 high speed train outside Shanghai Hongqiao

These new routes serve newly built stations on the outskirts of cities, avoiding the need for detours into built up areas.

CRH train stopped in the opposite platform at Huashan North Railway Station

Xi’an North railway station is one example – only high speed trains were to be seen.

CRH train departs Xian North Railway Station

With slower trains still using the original Xi’an railway station closer to town.

Forecourt of Xi'an Railway Station


Baidu has a Chinese language article on “passenger dedicated lines” (客运专线):

Passenger dedicated line refers to the railway system that only runs passenger trains and technical operation trains. There are many types of passenger dedicated lines, which are generally divided into railway trunk lines (铁路干线), inter-regional railways (区际铁路), inter-city rails (城际轨道交通) and suburban city ​​express (市域快铁) trains according to the railway administrative nature.

China’s passenger lines have two major classes:

Class 1: high-speed rail passengers (high-speed passenger line), the railway ranks on the high-speed rail. China stipulates that the high-speed railway is a high-speed (with a speed limit of 250 km/h) passenger line, which is its technical standard and functional positioning, while the passenger-vehicle dual-purpose railway with a speed of 250 km/h is a fast-speed railway.

Class 2: Fast-speed passenger-class (fast passenger line), which is a passenger dedicated line (the city ​​express train and some inter-city railways , such as the Dagang Express Railway and the Changsha-Zhuzhou-City Intercity Railway ) , which is lower than the 250 km/h speed bottom line standard of the high-speed railway.

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New Shatin to Central Link platforms at Hung Hom station

Ever since construction started on the MTR Shatin to Central Link project, I’ve had one big question – how would the two new lines interface at Hung Hom station, and interface with the new and existing tunnels?

MTR diagram

The Sha Tin to Central link (abbreviated SCL; Chinese: 沙中線) consists of two new railway lines:

  • Phase 1 from Tai Wai station in the New Territories to Hung Hom station in Kowloon, connecting the Ma On Shan line and West Rail line forming the Tuen Ma line, codenamed “East West Corridor”.
  • Phase 2 from Hung Hom station to Admiralty station on Hong Kong Island as an extension of the East Rail line, codenamed the “North South Corridor”.

Four new underground platforms are being built to serve the new railway lines.

MTR artist impression

These newly built platforms will be clean and bright.

MTR artist impression

Compared to the dark and dingy platforms used by passengers today.

Terminating train arrives at Hung Hom station

West Rail line platforms at Hung Hom station

8-car long trains on the East West Corridor will use the island platform on the top level, with 9-car long trains on the North South Corridor using the island platform below below.

MTR diagram

This arrangement allow the North South Corridor to pass under Victoria Harbour via a new immersed tube tunnel.

Shatin to Central Link (MKK – HUH) EIA: Appendix 3.2 – Geological Plan and Profile

The new platforms are located next door to the existing platforms at Hung Hom.

Allowing construction to continue without disrupting rail services.

Shatin to Central Link worksite beside the East Rail tracks at Hung Hom

But is a challenging process, in a confined space located beneath the existing station podium.

With deep excavations beneath the station and podium and the close proximity of the works to existing structures, all construction works for SCL 1112 have to be carefully considered in advance and assessed for their potential impact on the integrity and safety of the structures above.

At an overall station depth of approximately 15 m below ground, the deep excavations require ground support. Diaphragm walls are the primary form of ground support and also form the permanent station walls. The diaphragm wall construction technique used provides an effective groundwater cut-off during excavation and offers robust protection to the existing structures.

Another main challenge at Hung Hom is that the headroom available beneath the podium structure is relatively low, making construction works more difficult. Specialised plant and equipment was required to construct these diaphragm walls, excavating the soil down to competent rock. Once the excavation is completed, steel reinforcement cages were installed to give the panel the required strength. Each of these reinforcement cages can only be installed in 4m-long sections due to height restraints beneath the podium, and so a considerable number of these cages had to be joined together to create a single panel. Such works took considerable time and was labour intensive. Once the cages were installed, concrete is placed in the panel and then that panel is complete.

In a number of locations beneath the podium the required SCL alignment conflicts with the maze of existing podium foundation columns. To remove these column’s sophisticated jacking systems are required to transfer the existing podium loads onto new foundation structures, clear of the SCL alignment, before the existing foundations can be removed. The structures, new and old, are monitored 24-hours per day to alert the construction teams of any potential concerns which may affect the safety of the structures.

New tracks will tie the underground platforms to the existing network.

Shatin to Central Link (MKK – HUH) EIA: Appendix 1.2 – Alignments of Shatin to Central Link

Ground level tracks at the south end connect the upper level East West Corridor platforms to the existing West Rail tunnel towards East Tsim Sha Tsui.

Hung Hom Station south side under extension in January 2018
Photo by Dicky0615, via Wikimedia Commons

While to the north, more ground level tracks connect the East West Corridor to the new tunnel towards Kai Tak and Tai Wai.

New north siding tracks at Hung Hom Station in October 2018
Photo by N509FZ, via Wikimedia Commons

And a new tunnel beneath these tracks takes the North South Corridor north towards Ho Man Tin.

Where they will rejoin the surface tracks.

MTR East Rail train passes Shatin to Central Link works at Ho Man Tin

What about Through Trains?

It appears that the six current above ground platforms will be retained for the use of Intercity Through Trains.

MTR diagram

With the Chinese-language Wikipedia entry on Hung Hom station containing this unvalidated theory:

Following the completion of the East Rail Line extension across the Victoria Harbour, the current platforms 1-4 will be converted for use by Intercity Through Trains.

The shunting track for platform 1-4 was dismantled to allow the construction of the East Tsim Sha Tsui extension in 2001, followed by the removal of the connection between platform 2 and the current East Rail Line with the opening of the Kowloon Southern Link in 2009.

The track to these platforms will be reconfigured following the opening of the East West Coridoor, and the locomotive traverser will be modified to be suitable for long-body locomotives such as the HXD1D.

But my theory – two platforms are more than enough to cater for Intercity Through Trains, so no modification works will be carried out – platforms 1 though 4 will instead be sealed off from public access and then abandoned.

And a footnote on stabling sidings

Another Shatin to Central Link project activity at Hung Hom station are the Hung Hom Stabling Sidings, occupying the former Hung Hom Freight Yard, under an existing podium structure.

Shatin to Central Link (HHS) EIA: Figure 3.1.1a

Stabling sidings at Hung Hom station in October 2018
Photo by N509FZ, via Wikimedia Commons

Thirteen tracks will be provided in the new sidings to permit stabling, cleaning and inspection of trains, with full maintenance facilities located at Pat Heung and Tai Wai depots.

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Shanghai’s rubber tired tram

A long way off the beaten tourist track of Shanghai is an unusual mode of transport – the Zhangjiang Tram.

Rubber tired tram departs the terminus at Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park Station

It looks a little like a normal light rail system.

The 'tram' trundles down the road south from Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park

With a track running down the middle of the road, and overhead wires to supply electric power.

'Tram' guideway runs down the middle of the road

And platforms for intending passengers.

Pair of platforms at the Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park terminus

But the vehicles run on rubber tyres, guided by a central rail.

Headed into the middle of the road after departing Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park Station

So are legally considered motor vehicles, and have registration plates affixed to the front.

Waiting for passengers at the Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park terminus

The 10 km (6.2 mi) line runs from Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park Station on Shanghai Metro Line 2 to Heqing Town, with 15 stops along the way. Construction of the Zhangjiang Tram started in December 2007, with the first tram running in December 2009. The Translohr system was originally developed by Lohr Industrie of France.

A note on the track

The trackwork for a Translohr system differs to standard tram tracks.

Crossover between up and down tracks at Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park Station

The pair of rubber tyres leave scuff marks behind.

Scuff marks on the concrete mark where the rubber road wheels roll

Beneath each vehicle are a pair of guide wheels arranged in a ‘v’ shape.

Diagram of the Translohr guided tramway wheels
Diagram via Wikimedia Commons

1- Road
2- Flangeway
3- Rail
4- Resin
5- Wheel flange
6- Spring
7- Wheel

Which engages the central guide rail, which has two running faces.

Detail of the central guide rail embedded in concrete and asphalt

But the pointwork is the most complicated part of the system – the ‘frog’ section made up of two rigid pieces of rail fixed to a solid plate.

Detail of the point blade in the central guide rail

Which rotate in place to direct the guide wheel along the straight or diverge route.

Detail of the point blade in the central guide rail

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Changing trains at East Tsim Sha Tsui

There are many interchange stations on Hong Kong’s MTR, but the connection between Tsim Sha Tsui station on the Tsuen Wan line and East Tsim Sha Tsui station on the West Rail line has to take the cake as the most complicated.

Moving walkways in the corridor linking East Tsim Sha Tsui and Tsim Sha Tsui stations

As soon as you exit the ticket gates at East Tsim Sha Tsui station, a wall of signage offers a world of destinations – so checking the station map is a good start!

There are multiple exits back to street level.

Stairs and lift back to ground level in the corridor linking East Tsim Sha Tsui and Tsim Sha Tsui stations

And a labyrinth of pedestrians subways connecting the two stations.

'Red Zone' signage in the corridor linking East Tsim Sha Tsui and Tsim Sha Tsui stations

Some of which feature travelators to speed your passage, or reduce the amount of walking required.

Moving walkways in the corridor linking East Tsim Sha Tsui and Tsim Sha Tsui stations

And assigned colours to tell them apart. There is the ‘Green Zone’.

Moving walkways in the corridor linking East Tsim Sha Tsui and Tsim Sha Tsui stations

A ‘Yellow Zone’.

'Yellow Zone' signage in the corridor linking East Tsim Sha Tsui and Tsim Sha Tsui stations

And the ominous sounding ‘Red Zone’.

'Red Zone' signage in the corridor linking East Tsim Sha Tsui and Tsim Sha Tsui stations

Along with an unbranded section beneath Nathan Road.

Pedestrian corridors beneath Tsim Sha Tsui linking surrounding buildings to the MTR station

Which hopefully leads you to Tsim Sha Tsui station.

Ticket barriers at Tsim Sha Tsui station

And a ticketing footnote

The subways linking the two Tsim Sha Tsui stations is outside the ticket gates, so someone using a ‘Single Journey Ticket’ cannot use it for a free transfer. This is because single journey tickets are retained by the fare gates on exiting the station.

Touchscreen MTR single journey ticket machine

But Octopus card holders don’t necessarily get a free transfer either – the fine print on the Octopus card fare table has the following conditions:

Separate entry and exit gates are installed at Tsim Sha Tsui and East Tsim Sha Tsui stations. Octopus users who interchange between these two stations within 30 minutes will be considered as having taken one journey.

The full fare for the first sector travelled will be deducted when exiting the first station. The remaining balance of the fare will be deducted upon exit at the final destination. If the total fare is less than the first sector charged, a refund of the amount over-deducted will be credited to the Octopus at the final exit gate. However, any same station entry and exit trip at these two stations will be treated as a separate journey, and not form a part of an interchange journey, with a separate fare.

Passengers are reminded not to use the same Octopus on other transport (including Light Rail, MTR Bus and MTR Feeder Bus) or make more than 9 non-transport related transactions during the 30-minute
interchange interval. Otherwise, full fares for two separate journeys will be charged.

The last line is the interesting bit – it appears that an Octopus card only remembers the last 10 actions, and so making too transactions while changing stations will result in the original station ‘A’ exit record being overwritten, meaning the interchange will not be recognised when entering station ‘B’.

There have been also software bugs in the Octopus card system that have resulted in the interchange discount being incorrectly applied, the most recent in April 2016.

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Another developer uses Melbourne to sell Hong Kong property

While reaching my recent piece titled “Using the Melbourne lifestyle to sell Hong Kong property” I happened to find a second example of the practice – this time for the ‘Savannah’ development, which is also at Tseung Kwan O.

The advertisement starts with a rowing crew walking their boat along Melbourne’s Yarra River.

Then jumps to the Yarra Yarra Rowing Club rooms, which have been fitted out as an apartment.

Now we’re driving down Flinders Lane, near the corner of Queen Street.

Then looking out on the corner of Bourke and William Street.

Shopping in the Bourke Street Mall.

Then cycling along the Yarra.

Stopping for coffee at Teatro restaurant in Southbank.

Then take to the skies near Melbourne Park.

Grab a drink at Federation Square.

Jog over the Seafarers Bridge.

Ride through the Alexandra Gardens.

Then end on the banks of the Yarra River.

But with the Melbourne CBD skyline photoshopped out.

Looking downstream from the Morell Bridge

And that isn’t all

If you head to the website for the ‘Savannah’ development, the only photos you’ll find are of Melbourne.

Sitting on the banks of Albert Park Lake.

Watching the boats at Williamstown.

And the same photoshopped view of the Melbourne skyline we saw earlier.

As with my previous post, this property developer gets away with it using a similar wording to last time.

The photographs, images, drawings or sketches shown in this advertisement/promotional material represent an artist’s impression of the development concerned only. They are not drawn to scale and/or may have been edited and processed with computerised imaging techniques. Prospective purchasers should make reference to the sales brochure for details of the development. The vendor also advises prospective purchasers to conduct an on-site visit for a better understanding of the development site, its surrounding environment and the public facilities nearby.

And another cyclist

I pointed out Australia’s mandatory bicycle helmets laws in my last post, and this advert is no different – the cyclists featured are sans helmet.

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