Temporary depot at Mei Foo for the Airport Railway

Building a new railway is a complex operation, involving large quantities of raw materials, and a fleet of heavy construction equipment. All of these need to come from somewhere, which presented difficulties for the MTR when building the Lantau Airport Railway in the 1990s through West Kowloon. The solution – a temporary railway depot at Mei Foo.

MTR battery electric locomotive L75 and unknown classmate stabled at Siu Wan Ho depot

The Lantau Airport Railway was built to connect the new Hong Kong International Airport at Chek Lap Kok to the rest of urban Hong Kong, with MTR Airport Express and Tung Chung Line trains travelling along the northern shores of Lantau Island and newly reclaimed land at West Kowloon, crossing the waters in between on the Tsing Ma Bridge.

Hong Kong bound train runs through Sunny Bay station

Construction materials and equipment could be landed on the Lantau side of the railway at the future MTR depot at Siu Ho Wan, but the Tsing Ma Bridge presented a stumbling block: there was no way to move materials to the Kowloon side before the bridge was completed.

As a result it was decided to build a temporary railway depot at Mei Foo so that track construction on the Kowloon side could start before the bridge was completed. A site on newly reclaimed land parallel to the future railway was selected, at what is now the intersection of the West Kowloon Highway and Tsing Sha Highway, next door to the Port of Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong Railway Society visited the temporary depot in September 1997 – here you can find their photos:

Following completion of the railway the mainline connection was removed and the depot abandoned. This Google Maps satellite view shows what remained of the depot in 2002, then idle for five years.

Remnants of the engine shed are visible.

As are eight dead-end sidings.

The sidings are also visible in the 2000-01 photo of the Kowloon Motor Bus depot under construction.

A single track linked the sidings and the engine shed, passing under Mei Ching Road via a concrete bridge. The structure is still visible on Google Street View today.

Today the bridge at Mei Ching Road is the only remnant of the depot, the land having been taken over by container parks for the Port of Hong Kong.


The buildings seen in this 1997 Hong Kong Railway Society photo still exist today on Hing Wah Street.

The major change is the addition of the Kowloon Motor Bus depot in 2000 and the Tsing Sha Highway viaduct in 2009.

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Underwater tunnels of the Hong Kong MTR

In Hong Kong there are four railway tunnels carrying trains under Victoria Habour between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. Here is a summary of how each was constructed.

Southbound train emerges from the tunnel at Kwai Hing station

MTR Harbour Crossing Tunnel

Location: Admiralty to Tsim Sha Tsui
Railway: Tsuen Wan Line, between Tsim Sha Tsui and Admiralty stations
Carries: 2x railway tracks in separate tubes
Commenced: 1976
Completed: December 1979
Type: Immersed tube, reinforced concrete double binocular section
Length: 1400 metres
Width: 13.1 metres
Height: 6.5 metres
Depth: 24.24 metres

The tunnel is made up of 14 immersed tube units, each 100 metres long and weighing 7,800 tonnes. The tunnel was built on a 2800 metre radius curve due to the railway running north-south in Kowloon and east-west on Hong Kong Island.

Each binocular section was constructed of concrete reinforced with longitudinal prestressing, in a casting basin at Chai Wan on north-east Hong Kong Island. The units were placed on a screeded gravel mattress foundation, with the final closure joint between unit No. 12 and No. 13 achieved underwater using tremie concrete.

Eastern Harbour Crossing

Location: Quarry Bay to Cha Kwo Ling
Railway: Tseung Kwan O Line, between Yau Tong and Quarry Bay stations
Carries: 2x railway tracks, 2x dual road lanes, ventilation duct
Commenced: August 1986
Completed: September 1989
Type: Immersed tube, reinforced concrete box
Length: 1860 metres
Width: 35.45 metres
Height: 9.75 metres
Depth: 27 metres

The Eastern Harbour Crossing carries both road and rail traffic across Victoria Harbour, in five separate immersed tubes.

Each of the 15 precast reinforced concrete units are 128 metres long, and at 35.45 metres were the widest concrete tunnel sections built in the world up until that time. They were cast in three batches of five at a 5.5 hectare dry dock at Cha Kwo Ling, on the northern shore of the tunnel.

Western Immersed Tube

Location: Central to West Kowloon
Railway: Airport Express and Tung Chung Lines, between Hong Kong and Kowloon stations
Carries: 2x railway tracks
Commenced: late 1994
Completed: December 1996
Type: Immersed tube, reinforced concrete box
Length: 1260 metres
Width: 12.4 metres
Height: 7.7 metres
Depth: 28 metres

Options for combining the tunnel with the Western Harbour Crossing vehicular tunnel were considered at feasibility stage of both projects, but the alignment constraints resulted in two separate tunnels being constructed.

The ten tunnel units are of twin-cell prestressed concrete construction, each being 126 metres long. They were fabricated in three batches of 4, 2 and 4 units respectively, in the Shek O casting basin.

Due to the railway running north-south on the Kowloon side and east-west on Hong Kong Island, the alignment follows a 60° curve: tunnel units are a mix of straight, transition curves, and minimum 850 metre radius. At the Hong Kong landfall is a special tapered unit, to accommodate the turnouts towards the separate Airport Express and Tung Chung Line platforms at Hong Kong station.

Shatin to Central Link Cross Harbour Tunnels

Location: Admiralty to Hung Hom
Railway: North South Corridor, between Exhibition and Hung Hom stations
Carries: 2x railway tracks
Commenced: mid 2015
Completed: 2021 (expected)
Type: Immersed tube, reinforced concrete box
Length: 1700 metres
Width: ?
Height: ?
Depth: ?

The eleven pre-cast concrete tunnel units are being cast at the former Shek O Quarry, and are each approximately 160-metre long and 23,000 tonnes in weight.


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Hong Kong’s casino ships

The residents of Hong Kong love gambling, but there are is only one legal outlet – horse racing. The most common workaround for those wanting high stakes thrills is a short ferry trip to the casinos of Macau, but there is another one – boarding a casino ship bound for international waters.

Casino ship 'Jimei' steams slowly west through Victoria Harbour

‘Jimei’ is the easiest casino ship to find – by day it is usually moored out in the middle of Victoria Harbour.

Pleasure boats moored in the Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter

By afternoon it moves to the China Ferry Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui, ready for the punters to board.

Casino ship 'Jimei' moored at the China Ferry Terminal in Hong Kong

As darkness falls, she departs the wharf.

Casino ship 'Jimei' steams slowly west through Victoria Harbour

Headed 12 nautical miles due south of Hong Kong, where the laws of the land no longer apply.

Casino ship 'Jimei' steams slowly west through Victoria Harbour

Come morning, she will steam back into Hong Kong, some punters returning with their winnings, others with the shirts on their back.

Tickets on a casino ships cost somewhere between HK$400-500 for an overnight trip, including buffet meals, a karaoke bar pass the time until the casino opens, and a bed for you to ponder your losses.

Further reading

From Quartz – 16 hours on one of Hong Kong’s overnight casino cruise boats:

Casino ships have an unsavory reputation, including links to triads and prostitution. The perceived lawlessness of “international waters” makes gambling on board, miles from shore and far from any law enforcement, seem much more shady than heading over to glittering Macau. To see how well that reputation matched reality, we spent a night afloat.

The South China Morning Post also took a ride – A slice of the gambler’s life on Neptune’s casino cruise:

The casino ship, which has been operating out of Hong Kong for nearly four years, is hardly the ‘brand new’ five-star attraction touted in the glossy brochure, and the Russian signs on various doors hint at a previous life in colder climes. However, the cabins are clean and comfortable, the food is plentiful and reasonably varied, and the atmosphere is less smoke-filled than you might expect for a nation of chain-smokers.

But the conditions for staff onboard the ships is another matter:

The galley smells like decay. Flies circle dirty pots and pans, and the temperature on board is sweltering. While the bustle of Hong Kong continues outside, a crew of 46 men and women have been stuck for six months on a casino ship anchored in the eastern harbor, near Kai Tak Cruise Terminal.

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Delay certificates on the Hong Kong MTR

An notable aspect of railways in Japan are ‘delay certificates’ – small slips of paper produced by rail operators when a scheduled train doesn’t arrive as timetabled, so that passengers can prove to their superiors at school or work why they are arriving late. Rarely seen elsewhere in the world, in Hong Kong they are occasionally issued by the MTR following major delays.

Cross platform interchange at Mong Kok

A recent occurrence was following a fatality at Sheung Shui station on the East Rail line:

A passenger was killed on Friday after falling onto the train tracks at Sheung Shui MTR station.

A spokesperson for the MTR Corporation said the incident took place around 7:40am. A man in his 60s fell onto the tracks and was killed by an approaching train.

After the incident, train services between Fanling and Lo Wu and between Fanling and Lok Ma Chau were suspended for about an hour. Train services along the East Rail Line were also affected.

The MTR Corporation provided passengers with free shuttle bus services during the outage.

Train services resumed shortly after the man was removed from the tracks.

Affected commuters may apply for a delay certificate on the MTR Corporation’s website.

Officially called a ‘Notification on Information about the recent train service disruption’ (列車服務受阻通知書) by the MTR, these notices are only available via an online form.

The user fills in their personal details.

And a personalised delay certificate is emailed to the user.


Wikipedia has more on the delay certificate topic.

Back in Hong Kong, it appears that in cases of minor delays, delay certificates can also be requested via email.

The main online form is found at http://tnsms1.mtr.com.hk/latecert/form_en.php, but it doesn’t seem to be working right now – presumably it is only accessible following an incident for which delay certificates are being issued for.

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Trackwork on the Hong Kong Tramways

When riding the Hong Kong Tramways, I was quite surprised to see how they maintaining their trackwork – by digging them up while trams are still running over the top!

Tram #4 joins the main line from the Happy Valley loop

As each worksite road vehicles had to be diverted onto other routes.

'Temporary traffic diversion' for road vehicles approaching the tram track relaying works

But trams were free to keep on rolling through the work site.

Tram #156 passes over a short stretch of relaid track, minus concrete

The maintenance workers arrived by road.

Hong Kong Tramways track maintenance truck at a work site

Cutting up the concrete that surrounded the tracks.

Steel tie bars link the two rails, concrete yet to be poured

New rails were put into place, but only bolted in place.

Short section of relaid track, bolted but not welded, and awaiting concrete

Welding having to wait until night time, when the trams stop running.

'NO ENTRY" sign beside a relaid section of tram track

With the concrete pour the final step.

Relaid section of tram track following the concrete pour

Job done!

Tram #132 eastbound in Wan Chai

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