Rescue training for Hong Kong cable cars

The last thing you want to happen when riding a cable car is getting stuck in the air – but luckily for anyone in Hong Kong, the Fire Services Department are ready for any contingency, thanks to a variety of training rigs.

Hong Kong airport looks tiny from up here!

Fire and Ambulance Services Academy

The Fire and Ambulance Services Academy is a firefighter training facility operated by the Hong Kong Fire Services Department at Pak Shing Kok, outside Tseung Kwan O.

Provided with a variety of simulated locations for rescue operations.

The main duty of the High Angle Rescue Team (HART) is to carry out rescue operations at high angle locations with special features such as cable cars, tower cranes, bridge towers, scaffoldings at construction sites and suspended working platforms of high-rise buildings. Various high angle training facilities are provided in the Technical Rescue Training Area, which include a HAR tower, a simulated tower crane and a simulated cable car system for the training of HAR techniques to be employed by rescuers in various scenarios.

Ocean Park

Ocean Park is a Hong Kong theme park located in Aberdeen. The park is separated by a large mountain into two areas, linked by a 1.5-kilometre long cable car system.

Ocean Park logo in the hilside

Each car can hold six passengers, and with 252 cable cars across the two pairs of ropeways, 4,000 passengers can be moved per hour.

Cable car, looking down on Aberdeen

But around the corner at the ‘Aberdeen Fire Station Cum Ambulance Depot‘ I found something interesting up on the roof.

A dummy cable car gondola.

Oriental Daily photo

The Oriental Daily reported on the facility in 2012.

The Ocean Park cable car was found on the roof of the fire station?

The new Aberdeen Fire Station and Ambulance Station, which is adjacent to the Ocean Park and will be in service at the end of September this year, has spent $640,000 to create the cable car rescue training facility. It is understood that the training cable car and the cable above the new station are all directly from the Ocean Park.

The “real car” purchased is the first fire station in Hong Kong to introduce a real cable car for rescue training. It is expected to be used by 1,300 people every year, and it will allow firefighters to experience a simulated environment, as risks may arise during rescue in high-altitude environments.

It is reported that for many years, firefighters can only enter the Ocean Park in the morning for live cable car training. In the past one or two years, the training has increased to three nights a month, but the time is always limited.

The advantage of adding cable car training facilities in the new bureau is that it can flexibly allow personnel to be trained at all times and in all weather. The outer area of ​​the cable car is also surrounded by platforms: The three-monthly practical training in Ocean Park will also be maintained.

Ngong Ping 360

Ngong Ping 360 is a 5.7 kilometre long cable car on Lantau Island, connecting the town of Tung Chung to the tourist attractions at Ngong Ping – home of the Po Lin Monastery and Tian Tan Buddha.

High above Tung Chung on the Ngong Ping 360 cable car

But hiding beneath the Airport Island angle station I found something curious.

Angle station for the Ngong Ping 360 cable car on Airport Island

A single gondola sitting atop a steel tower, disconnected to the main ropeway – erected as a training aid for emergency responders.

Gondola rescue training rig beneath the Airport Island angle station

However the Fire Services Department also completes live training operations during maintenance shutdown windows, like this one in 2017.

Which was followed up with a night time rescue operation a few weeks later.

The Ngong Ping 360 emergency plan features two different rescue modes – the first using ropes.

Where the gondola is less than 60m above the ground the rescuer will ascend the tower nearest to the cabin in question, descent from the tower along the haul rope to the top of the cabin, and enter the cabin. The rescuee will be lowered directly from the cabin to the ground by using descender, safety harness and safety line.

The second method uses a ‘rescue carrier’ to provide access.

For locations where gondolas are higher than 60m from the ground then a rescue carrier from the designated tower will be moved to the rescuee’s cabin so that the rescuee will be transferred to the rescue carrier. The rescue carrier will be returned to the tower, and the rescuee will be conveyed to the ground through the tower’s staircase.

Four ‘rescue carriers’ exist on the Ngong Ping 360 ropeway – two parked beneath tower 3, beside Tung Chung Bay.

Ngong Ping 360 cable car heads up the hills at Tower 3 on Lantau Island

And two at Tower 7, just before the Ngong Ping station.

Emergency rescue vehicle stored at tower 7

In an emergency the rescue carrier is placed onto the ropeway, then driven under it’s own power to the affected gondola, allowing the transfer of passengers.

Ngong Ping 360 photo

The rescue carrier is tested regularly, but was damaged during a 2009 emergency drill after being incorrectly stowed.

Ngong Ping Cable Car’s emergency rescue vehicle crashed into a cable tower involving human negligence
December 14, 2009

According to Hong Kong’s “Sing Tao Daily” report, during the drill at Ngong Ping 360 of Hong Kong Tung Chung Cable Car in the middle of last month, an accident happened suddenly. An emergency rescue vehicle slipped away from its original position when it was hooked up with a cable. And hit the cable tower platform, the body was slightly damaged, no one was injured. The engineer believed that the accident was caused by human negligence.

Ngong Ping 360 said on the 13th that an emergency rescue vehicle drill accident occurred on the 18th of last month. The crane was stopped that night and regular drills were being carried out. The emergency rescue vehicle usually parked on Tower 3 was installed with a cable, but in the process, The rescue vehicle suddenly slid away from the original position of the cable and crashed into the tower platform and was slightly damaged. Fortunately, there was no one on board and no one was injured.

The spokesperson pointed out that the rescue vehicle is an uncovered iron-pod crane. It is only dispatched during the rescue. It does not usually run on a cable. The accident that night occurred for the first time. He emphasised that the exercise adopts another set of operating mechanisms and will not affect it. Usually the cable car is in operation and the cable is not damaged.

Lu Jueqiang, an engineer from the Department of Mechanical Engineering of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, pointed out that the emergency rescue vehicles are usually parked on the No. 3 and No. 7 cable towers. When the crane fails to stop, in order to rescue the trapped passengers up to 60 meters above the ground, the crane will be used to remove the cable. When the tower is moved out of the rescue vehicle and hung on the cable, when towed to the trapped crane, the rescuer will assist the passengers to climb down the rescue vehicle from the crane, and then pull the cable to retract the rescue vehicle, allowing the passengers to return to the cable tower.

Lu Jueqiang believes that the rescue vehicle was accidentally involved in the crane arm and the rescue vehicle was “missed” and placed in a crooked position. As a result, it slid back to the cable tower and collided. However, the rescue vehicle would not fall out because the crane arm was still attached to the rescue vehicle. He believes that people involved are not proficient in operation, and training should be strengthened.

As Ngong Ping 360 notified the EMSD two days after the accident and the rescue vehicle was repaired, a spokesperson for the Development Bureau revealed that the EMSD had issued a warning letter to Ngong Ping 360, instructing to notify the Ngong Ping 360 in accordance with the established mechanism, and the department’s engineers had contacted With the representative of Ngong Ping 360, inspected the recovered rescue vehicle to confirm that the rescue vehicle was operating normally, and launched an investigation into the incident, requesting to find out the cause and review the improvement measures.

A spokesperson for Ngong Ping 360 said that he had made a notification as required by the law at the time; but the department sent a letter to Ngong Ping 360 last Friday, reiterating that it must report according to the mechanism, that is, to give oral and written notifications within 30 minutes and 24 hours of the accident.

Footnote: cable car maintenance platforms

The Ngong Ping 360 cable car also has another oddball vehicle – an open air maintenance platform that circulates along the ropeway during normal services.

A bit of a windy ride!

Further reading

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1500 V DC railway electrification in Hong Kong

Hong Kong MTR uses electric trains, powered by two different technologies – 1500 V DC on the ‘urban’ rail lines, and 25 kV AC for the former KCR network. Today we look at 1500 V DC railway electrification across Hong Kong.

Northbound train departs Lai King station on a viaduct

Powering the trains

Each train has a pantograph.

MTR CNR Changchun EMU enters the tunnel portal at Kowloon Bay

To collect power from the overhead wires.

Northbound train arrives at Kwai Fong station

To minimise voltage loss, multiple substations supply traction power – each one converting incoming 33 kV power to 1500 V with a transformer, then from AC to DC with rectifiers.

The 1500 V DC feeders are connected via a network of circuit breakers.

So that in the event of a traction substation fault, other adjacent substations can supply the portion of line affected.

Different styles of overhead wire

The bulk of the MTR uses standard overhead wires, suspended from the tunnel roof, with double contact wire to reduce electrical losses.

Headlights of an approaching train illuminate the tunnel at Mong Kok

The bulk of elevated viaducts support the wires with cantilevered arms.

Tung Chung bound track on viaduct north of Lai King station

The Disneyland Resort line is a little different – “Victorian” style overhead structures to fit in with the Disney resort theme.

Crossing a Disneyland bound train at the crossing loop

Which transition to “modern” themed overhead structures at the Sunny Bay end.

Arriving into Sunny Bay station

Newer lines such as the South Island line feature noise barrier ‘tunnels’, which are put to use supporting the overhead.

Signal in the middle of the tracks, beside an emergency exit stairs at the Aberdeen Channel Bridge

These recent project have also used solid overhead conductor rails inside tunnels, like these on the West Island line extension.

MTR train approaches Sai Ying Pun Station

And these on the South Island line.

Transition from square cut and cover to round bored tunnel near Lei Tung

Electrical sections

Each traction substation feeds a separate electrical section, with an insulated gap in the overhead wires between them. When the pantograph of a train crosses this gap, there is a momentary surge of power between the two electrical sections, which isn’t normally an issue. But if the train stops there, the pantograph will complete the circuit, so lineside signs warn train captains that the pantograph of their train is in a position of danger.

Warning sign, it states that if a train stopped here, the 1st pantograph will be on a section insulator.

But thanks to the different models of train having their pantographs in different positions, the Lantau Airport Railway has a second type of sign – ‘K’ prefixed for the small number of K-stock trains in use on the line.

Slightly different variant of the section insulator warning sign

Failure to follow these signs can cripple an entire railway. Melbourne, Australia also uses 1500 volt DC for traction power, and in 2008 a train stopped with a pantograph across an insulated gap – an electric arc resulted, burning through the overhead wiring and then falling onto the train roof, shutting down traction power for the entire line.

So why a 33 kV distribution grid?

While 1500 V DC is a suitable voltage to power electric trains, it is subject to high losses over long distances. Meanwhile Hong Kong’s 132 kV AC power grid is subject to far lower voltage loses, but requires larger switchgear and insulation for safety.

High voltage transmission terminate at a substation in Aberdeen

So it was decided to provide an internal 33 kV AC distribution grid for the MTR system, supplied by a handful of ‘infeed’ traction substations which use transformers to convert 132kV power from the CLP Group grid to 33 kV.

This 1986 paper describes the power supplies available to the MTR network and the desire for reliability.

Two separate power utilities, the Hongkong Electric Company (HEC) and China Light and Power (CLP), provide electricity supply for the island and mainland territory of Hong Kong. Supply had to be taken from each utility. A single failure reliability criterion was adopted, i.e. that the loss of a single item of plant or equipment should not lead to a reduction of the full service.

The choice of 1500 V DC traction supply.

The traction supply voltage selected was 1500 V DC. This was considered a more efficient and cost effective voltage for distributing power over the required track section lengths than the 3000 V and 750 V options. Studies were carried out on the basis of a 90 second headway between trains. These identified a requirement for traction sub-stations of about 8 MVA rating at spacing of 2.5-3 km.

And how the use of a 33 kV grid enabled a highly available power supply.

Power supply from the utilities could be taken either at each passenger station or traction substation, or from a small number of bulk infeed points with distribution to load centres being carried out by the MTRC. The latter option was favoured because:

(a) connection to the highly secure 132 kV grids of each utility could be negotiated
(b) the MTRC’s internal distribution could be designed and operated to meet the MTRC’s need alone, as it is independent of any other consumers.

It was decided to take supply from each utility company at two points with autochangeover of loads in the event of one supply infeed failure. The subtransmission voltage of 33 kV was chosen to allow load transfer over the 30 km of planned railway.

Reliability through diversity

Diversity in supply is provided at the 132 kV level by Hong Kong’s two electrical utilities.

A network of four infeed substations supplying the initial three line MTR system with 33 kV power.

The modified initial system was designed with two 50 MVA 132/33 kV infeeds from China Light and Power at Kowloon Bay.

A second infeed in the modified initial system was provided by two 40 MVA 132/33 kV infeeds at Admiralty from the Hongkong Electric Company.

The Tseun Wan extension used a second infeed from China Light and Power at Kwai Fong with two 60 MVA 132/33 kV transformers. China Light and Power agreed to supply this infeed from a 132 kV network which was electrically independent of the first China Light and Power infeed at Kowloon Bay.

A similar arrangement was made with the Hongkong Electric Company when the second Island infeed was required at Chai Wan for the Island Line development.

Each of the four infeeds comprise two 100% rated 132/33 kV transformers.

The 33 kV supply from the infeed substations forms a mesh network via a series of circuit breakers.

This diverse network allows trains to keep running, despite the failure of multiple infeeds.

A number of predetermined strategies are automatically initiated to cover infeed failures.

First-order contingencies, which involve the loss of one infeed, will see the 33 kV bus-section circuit breaker close automatically so that
the other source can supply the complete system. The total loss of supply from one power company would appear as two simultaneous non-interactive single-infeed failures, and would result in two simultaneous interconnections.

Second-order contingencies, of much lower probability, involve two interactive single-infeed failures, one from each power company. They
are dealt with by tripping the cross-harbour circuits and closing some interconnector circuit breakers which are normally specifically
prohibited by interlocking, such that the systems on each side of the harbour are fed from the remaining power supply on each side.

Third-order contingencies involve loss of three infeeds. This requires the whole system to be run solid, which again means defeating otherwise vital interlocks, and feeding from the sole remaining supply.

The strategies for second- and third-order contingencies generally will involve swinging large blocks of power from one power company to the other, at a time when one of them may well be in difficulties of its own. The reconnection is therefore not initiated automatically.

In all instances except the three-infeed failure, it is possible to continue normal (but not rush-hour) service of the railway; for the third-order contingency, some reduction of service would be required.

In 1994 this 33 kV network was supplying 18 traction substations, powering 35 kilometres of route across the three MTR lines.

As the network has expanded, additional infeed substations have been provided.

  • Lantau Island Railway: Tai Kok Tsui in Kowloon and Sham Shui Kok on Lantau Island (1998);
  • Tseung Kwan O Line: Tseung Kwan O (CLP Group) and Quarry Bay (Hongkong Electric Company) (2002);
  • West Island Line: additional 50MVA gas insulated transformer at Admiralty (2013);
  • South Island Line: two 30MVA gas insulated transformers at Heung Yip Road (2013)
  • Island Line upgrade: two replacement 50MVA gas insulated transformers at Admiralty (2015 and 2016)

Which continues to provide a highly available power supply system resilient to upstream issues.

Footnote: station power

A 11 kV ring distribution system also covers the MTR network, fed by the 33 kV network. Substations connected to the 11 kV network provide 415 V power to critical loads such as the Central Control Room at Kowloon Bay, passenger stations, and tunnel ventilation fans. Depot and workshop loads are also fed from the 11 kV distribution system


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MTR Metro Cammell EMUs off to the scrap yard

It had to happen some day, and March 2021 is it – the first of Hong Kong’s Metro Cammell EMUs have been retired from service and despatched to the scrap yard.

Photo by Sordiu Edmond

This thread on the forums covers the scrapping process, with multiple East Rail Line EMUs chopped up into chunks then transported by road to a scrap yard in the New Territories for recycling.

The East Rail line trains are being replaced by 9-car Hyundai Rotem EMUs.

Local newspaper Oriental Daily also covered the story.

MTR decommissioned train cards transported to scrapyards. Railway fans advocate retention and activation
1 April 2021

In order to cope with the extension of the East Rail Line across the harbour as part of the under the Sha Tin to Central Link project, the MTR plans to gradually replace the current 12-car trains with 9-car trains made in South Korea.

Many railway fan groups on the Internet have recently published articles stating that a large number of decommissioned MTR trains have been found in a scrap yard in the New Territories. The photos show that at least 10 carriages have accumulated in the yard, like a “carriage hill”. These are British-made trains running on the East Rail Line earlier, and some of them are also British-made trains that run on urban lines. Seeing that the old MTR trains were crushed into scrap metal, some railway fans bluntly expressed their heartache and thought that the revitalisation of these retired trains could be considered as a memorial and to leave a collective memory for the public.

MTR responded that as some of the 12-car trains on the East Rail Line have reached the year of retirement, given the large number of trains, while exploring feasible community donations, the company has also entrusted a contractor to handle the decommissioned trains through open tenders. The MTR has required contractors to dismantle recyclable components in accordance with the relevant laws and guidelines of the Environmental Protection Department and ensure that the treatment process will not cause environmental pollution problems.

The MTR added that when the train reaches the end of its asset life, the company will invest in the purchase and replacement of new trains in accordance with the asset renewal plan. When handling decommissioned trains and car equipment, MTR will explore different feasibility, including donating to community partners for appropriate purposes. In the past, it has donated a decommissioned train to the Fire Services Department as a simulation training facility.

The MTR Corporation had invited tenders for the decommissioning of 29 Metro Cammel EMUs back in 2016.

Decommissioning and Removal of Used EMUs
Contract No.: Q045298

MTR Corporation Limited invites qualified companies to express their interest in tendering for the decommissioning and removal of used Electric Multiple Units (EMUs).

29 consists of 12-car Metro Cammell EMUs are currently running in the Corporation’s East Rail Line and are planned to be in service until one month prior to their scheduled service retirement dates from end 2017 to 2019. The Corporation is open to consider various feasible means/methods for removal of these EMUs, from resale as whole trains to disposal as scrap. The Corporation will also consider any feasible community service plans or environmental initiatives utilizing the retired trains. Interested companies and entities are welcome to register according to the instructions below.

The prequalification process for the tender will take place in April 2016 and tenders will be invited in the second half of 2016.


The similarly aged Metro Cammell M-Train stock as used on the ‘urban lines‘ are also up for retirement soon, to be replaced by the CSR Qingdao Sifang built ‘Urban Lines Vision Train‘.

So far the only M-Train stock to have been scrapped are accident damaged carriages, such as this one at Tsuen Wan Depot in March 2021.

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Tenth birthday for Checkerboard Hill

This month marks the tenth birthday of this blog – thanks for the support and kind comments from all my readers, on what has been quite a trip down the rabbit hole of railway and engineering related minutiae!

Haze comes down the hills over Central

My first post went live in December 2010 on my personal blog, with my Hong Kong related posts being spun out into their own site at in May 2011.

In the years since I’ve visited Hong Kong in 2013, 2016 and 2019 and published a total of 275 posts – setting down to a regular pace of a new one every two weeks. With over 250 ideas for new posts sitting in my draft folder, I won’t be running out of them any time soon!

Newsstand outside Admiralty MTR station

If you’d like to help contribute to the running of this blog, and get a sneak peek at what’s coming up, head over to to find out more!

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Hong Kong’s high density industrial areas

Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated cities on earth, but it isn’t just houses that are stacked up tall – factories and warehouses are as well.

Multistorey industrial buildings in Kwai Chung

Towering industry

Kwai Chung is full of twenty storey buildings dedicated to industry.

Multistorey industrial buildings in Kwai Chung

Divided up into a rabbit warren of storage units and work rooms.

Multistorey industrial buildings in Kwai Chung

Goods come in and out via a loading dock at ground level, with turntables used to direct trucks into parking bays.

Truck turntable in the loading dock of a multistorey industrial building in Hong Kong

San Po Kong is an older industrial district, but no less dense.

Multi-storey industrial buildings at San Po Kong, with Lion Rock in the distance

With Kwun Tong being another.

Speeding past Hong Kong's old industrial developments

Mixing homes and industry

Industry isn’t just in dedicated areas – districts like Jordan have towering light industrial buildings between the apartment blocks.

Entrance to a light industrial building in Jordan

And other districts have the ground level of apartment buildings taken over by workshops.

Recycling depot on Second Street


Mechanics workshop on the ground floor of an apartment block on Bonham Road

And recycling depots.

E-waste recycling shop on Second Street

And by the water

The Kwai Tsing Container Terminals are one of the busiest ports in the world.

Multi storey warehouse at the Modern Terminals complex

But with little space, massive multi-storey warehouses have been built to handle cargo.

Multi storey warehouse at the Goodman DP World and Modern Terminals complexes

Loading docks at ground level.

Multi storey warehouse at the Modern Terminals complex

And spiral ramps to allow trucks to access the upper floors.

Freight depots at the Kwai Tsing Container Terminals

Similar truck accessible warehouses were built at the former Kai Tak Airport.

Multi-storey warehouse complex in Hong Kong, with ramps for trucks

Beside Kowloon Bay at Kwun Tong.

'Kerry D. G. Godown' warehouse at Kowloon Bay

'Kowloon Godown' warehouse in Kwun Tong

And by the wharves in Kennedy Town.

Warehouses behind the China Merchants Wharf in Kennedy Town

Footnote – public factory estates

Turns out the Hong Kong government didn’t just build public housing towers, but public *factory* blocks. Between 1957 and 1973 eight multi-storey factory estates were built by the Government of Hong Kong Resettlement Department, with another nine built by it’s successor the Hong Kong Housing Authority between 1973 and 1984.

Six of these later estates are still leased to tenants today.

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