Photos from my 2019 trip to Hong Kong

It has taken me a bit over a year, but I have finally finished uploading the photographs I took on my 2019 trip to Hong Kong.

Star Ferry passes a pilot boat off Tsim Sha Tsui

My itinerary.

  • Day 1: arrival and Airport Express train
  • Day 2: Wong Tai Sin and Tsim Sha Tsui, MTR Island Line and Admiralty interchange
  • Day 3: Tsz Shan Monastery, Tai Po Market and Hong Kong Railway Museum
  • Day 4: Hong Kong Island trams and Wan Chai
  • Day 5: Repulse Bay, Mong Kok, MTR South Island and East Rail lines
  • Day 6: Hong Kong Dolphin Watch tour off Tung Chung, Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge, Central-Mid-Levels escalators,
  • Day 7: Hong Kong Observation Wheel, MTR Hung Hom station
  • Day 8: Lamma Island, MTR Kwun Tong line extension
  • Day 9: Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences, MTR Sai Ying Pun station, Kwun Tong, Ma On Shan, East Rail and Racecourse lines
  • Day 10: Peak Tram, Hong Kong Park, Kowloon Bay
  • Day 11: Route 81 bus from Kowloon to Sha Tin, MTR East Rail, NWFB Rickshaw Sightseeing Bus
  • Day 12: MTR West Rail and Tuen Mun light rail
  • Day 13: Mong Kok, Hong Kong Airport, Tung Chung, Discovery Bay by bus
  • Day 14: Hong Kong Airport, MTR Tung Chung Line, West Kowloon railway station, Whitty Street tram depot, Discovery Bay by ferry
  • Day 15: departure

You can view the complete set of photos on Flickr – a total of 4,542 photos – 100% captioned, and mostly geotagged.

Footnote

Compared to my 2016 visit I took twice as many photos, and managed to upload them in less time!

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Operating divisions of the MTR rail network

To the everyday passenger Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway network comes across as a single system. But from an operational and technology perspective, it is actually a number of smaller systems.

One grouping is the “Urban Lines” (URL) or 市區綫 – made up of the:

  • Island Line,
  • Kwun Tong Line,
  • Tsuen Wan Line,
  • Tseung Kwan O Line,
  • South Island Line.

The geographically isolated “Lantau Airport Railway” (LAR):

  • Airport Express Line,
  • Tung Chung Line.

Later expanded to be the “AT&D“:

  • Airport Express Line,
  • Tung Chung Line,
  • Disneyland Resort Line.

Giving the “DUAT Lines“:

  • Disneyland Resort Line,
  • Urban Lines,
  • Airport Express Line,
  • Tung Chung Line.

Which sit alongside the “WELM Lines“:

  • West Rail,
  • East Rail,
  • Light Rail,
  • Ma On Shan Line.

Clear as mud?

So why the groupings?

The MTR network has roots in two separate rail systems – the original MTR underground network, and the former KCR above ground network. There are no track connections between the two networks, and they use incompatible electrification schemes: the MTR uses 1500 V DC while the KCR was 25 kV AC.

The operations of the MTRC and KCRC were merged in 2007, with fare integration for passengers being the first order of business, but integration of train control systems taking until 2013 to be completed.

It is not expected that any further integration will take place, hence the mutually exclusive DUAT and WELM Lines, and new projects such as the Shatin to Central Link maintaining the standards of their own “side” of the network.

Footnote: seeing the terms in use

Here’s one example of the network groupings being used – URL and AT&D in a tender for cleaning services:

Package 1

Cleaning of all station areas including kiosks of URL except track-side related cleaning, electrical and plantroom areas and high level area cleaning

Package 2

Cleaning of all station areas including kiosks of AT&D except track-side related cleaning, electrical and plantroom areas and high level area cleaning

DUAT“:

The DUAT Signalling Replacement Project is to replace the signalling systems for six MTR linesand the Airport Express Line with the new signalling systems using Communications Based TrainControl (CBTC) technology. The six MTR lines include Tsuen Wan Line, Island Line, Kwun TongLine, Tsuen Kwan O Line, Disneyland Resort Line, and Tung Chung Line.

Lantau Airport Railway“:

MTR Corporation Limited invites qualified contractors to express their interest in tendering for the works for the migration of the operating systems riding on the existing Corporate Data Network (CDN) in Lantau Airport Railway (LAR) , i.e. Airport Express and Tung Chung Line as well as Disneyland Resort Line.

And an interesting one – different power supply standards for the DUAT and WELM lines:

AC motors shall be of squirrel-cage, induction type, and shall be suitable for 415 V (for DUAT lines) or 380 V (for WELM lines), 3-phase, 50 Hz supply. Only motors with rating 1 kW or below may be 240 V (for DUAT lines) or 220 V (for WELM lines), 1-phase, 50 Hz.

And finally – more alphabet soup

Each line on the MTR also has it’s own abbreviation.

  • East Rail Lines: ERL
    • East Rail Line EAL
    • Ma On Shan Line MOL
  • Lantau Airport Railway: LAR
    • Airport Express Line AEL
    • Disneyland Resort Line DRL
    • Tung Chung Line TCL
  • Light Rail LRL
  • Urban Lines: URL
    • Island Line ISL
    • Kwun Tong Line KTL
    • Tseung Kwan O Line TKL
    • Tsuen Wan Line TWL
    • South Island Line SIL
  • West Rail Line WRL
  • Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link XRL
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Refurbishing the MTR Phase I Light Rail Vehicles

In 2008 the MTR Corporation accounted the refurbishment of oldest members of the Light Rail fleet – the Comeng-built Phase I Light Rail Vehicles that entered serivce in 1988.

Phase I LRV 1023 on Castle Peak Road in Yuen Long

The 8 July 2008 media release marking their 20 years of service.

As part of the 20th Anniversary activities, the MTR Corporation has planned a HK$90 million modernisation programme for 69 first-generation Light Rail vehicles. Works will begin later this year and will be completed in 2011.

A fresher and more vibrant colour scheme will be used to reflect the youth and energy of the new towns. Nature will be prominently featured through the green colour widely used in the vehicles’ interior, underlying the environmental friendliness of the electrified Light Rail system.

“The interior of the modernised Light Rail vehicles will have a lighter and more relaxed feel with the use of softer lines. The Light Rail route map was the inspiration behind the more dynamic colour scheme as it reflects the transport convenience to the residents,” explained Mr Wilfred Yeung, Chief Architect of MTR Corporation.

Access for the disabled being one improvement.

“In our aim to create a more comfortable travelling environment for passengers, the seating will be rearranged so that they all face forward. In addition, the position of grab poles and handles will be moved to create more room and improve the flow of passengers boarding and alighting vehicles.”

The Corporation will also take advantage of the modernisation project to provide better facilities for the disabled: provision of dedicated wheelchair parking area; brightly coloured stickers applied to grab poles and outer edges of vehicle doors, and light-coloured floor patterns at doorways to make it easier for the visually impaired.

As well as technical upgrades.

At the same time, new static inverters will be installed to power on-board equipments. The new static inverters will bring even quieter Light Rail operations and greater reliability at higher energy efficiency.

The work was completed at the MTR Tuen Mun Depot.

Phase II LRV 1075 departs the depot

With capacity for five LRVs to be refurbished at one time, the process taking 16 weeks, with an interior refresh.

  • installing newly designed seats and changing all seats to the forward direction,
  • updating cab equipment such as seats, controls and sliding doors,
  • reorganizing the interior of the cabin: Handrail arrangement, refurbished carriage floor, multi-purpose space with wheelchair seat belt and back,
  • replacement of lighting.

And mechanical upgrade:

  • bogies,
  • wheels,
  • couplers,
  • air conditioning systems,
  • electronic components,
  • compressors,
  • batteries,
  • door components,
  • air hoses,
  • pantographs,
  • installation of new static converters

On 31 January 2011 LRV 1005 was the first upgraded vehicle to reenter serivce.

It appears brand new, but it is actually a 22-year-old Phase 1 Light Rail vehicle (LRV). Looking refreshed in bright green, purple and white, LRV1005 re-entered passenger service today (31 January 2011) after receiving a total facelift.

LRV1005 is the first to be upgraded under the LRV Modernisation Programme for the 99 LRVs which were put in service since 1988 and 1992. The programme will be gradually implemented in phases over the next five years.

“The modernised LRVs take on the same livery and design as the new LRVs which were introduced into passenger service just last year,” said Mr Ivan Lai, Head of Operating Support & West Region of MTR Corporation.

The look of the refurbished Phase I LRV.

Phase I LRV 1051 on route 614P departs the Tuen Mun ferry pier terminus

Onboard refurbished Phase I LRV 1011

Virtually indistinguishable from the new build Phase IV LRVs.

Phase IV LRV 1127 and classmate approach Ming Kum on route 615P

The exception being the tail end.

Phase I LRV 1037 on route 507 departs the Tuen Mun ferry pier terminus

Phase IV LRVs having a rear emergency exit.

Phase IV LRV 1117 on route 507 arrive at Town Centre stop

The last LRV to be refurbished was 1022, which reentered service 24 December 2013.

A total of 68 Phase I LRVs were refurbished as part of the program, down from 69 vehicles due to the retirement of LRV 1027 following a crash at Tin Shui Wai in 2011.

Mixed trains

The refurbished Phase I LRVs no long look like the Melbourne Z3 class trams they were derived from.

Z3.134 northbound on route 55 at Peel and Victoria Streets

This photo by Gordon Graham shows refurbished Phase I LRV 1005 coupled to unrefurbished LRV 1057.

And a financial footnote

The 2014 MTR Annual Report has the financial details of the refurbishment.

The Supplemental Agreement for the extension of the Original Contract (defined below) for the Mid-Life Refurbishment of Phase 1 Light Rail Vehicles (the “Phase 1 LRVs”), was entered into on 26 February 2010 between the Company and UGL (the “Supplemental Agreement”)

On 30 November 2007, KCRC entered into the Original Contract with UGL (the “Original Contract”), for the refurbishment of the Phase 1 LRVs for a period of 45 months from 30 November 2007 to 31 August 2011.

On 2 December 2007, the rights and obligations of KCRC under the Original Contract were vested in the Company pursuant to section 52(B) of the MTR Ordinance.

The Supplemental Agreement extends the Original Contract for a further period of 16 months from 31 August 2011 until 31 December 2012.

A second supplemental agreement was entered into by the Company and UGL on 21 December 2011 (the “Second Supplemental Agreement”) which extended the Original Contract to 31 December 2013.

A third supplemental agreement was entered into by the Company and UGL on 21 July 2014 (the “Third Supplemental Agreement”) which extended the Original Contract to 17 February 2014.

In consideration of UGL providing the Refurbishment Works (defined below) under the Original Contract, the Company is obliged to pay UGL a total sum of approximately HK$48,260,000 (excluding amounts for variations and additional works).

The Supplemental Agreement extended the scope of the Refurbishment Works of the Original Contract and the consideration payable by the Company to UGL for such extension is HK$83,736,143, as adjusted by an additional HK$14,435,327 and further increased by the Second Supplemental Agreement by an additional HK$34,957,178.

So MTR paid HK$83,736,143 for the refurbishment of their Phase 1 LRVs.

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Extending West Rail line trains from 7 to 8 cars

Hong Kong’s rail network is being transformed by the Shatin to Central Link project, with one of those changes being the expansion of trains on the West Rail line from 7 to 8 cars.

Section of the platform screen door only used by 8-car long trains, on the MTR West Rail line at East Tsim Sha Tsui

Some history

The story of West Rail starts in the 1990s with the ‘Western Corridor Railway’ that would link the new towns in the north-west New Territories to the urban areas of Kowloon. The Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation initially proposed the use of 12-car long trains, the same as the East Rail Line.

Southbound MTR train approaches Sha Tin

But following value engineering exercises the decision was made to shrink trains to 9-cars long, with overall capacity of the line retained by running trains more frequently – every 90 seconds instead of 120.

The first stage of West Rail opened in December 2003 between Tuen Mun and Nam Cheong, being extended to Hung Hom in August 2009 following the completion of the Kowloon Southern Link beneath central Kowloon.

Seven-car long trains provided the initial services.

Tuen Mun bound train approaches at Tin Shui Wai station

But platforms were constructed with enough space to serve longer trains.

Unused section of platform screen door on the MTR West Rail line at East Tsim Sha Tsui

The platform screen doors just locked out of use.

'Please use next door' message on the platform screen doors at Kam Sheung Road station

The end game for West Rail being something bigger – to extend the line through the densely populated districts of Kowloon City, and join up with the Ma On Shan Line at Tai Wai, forming the ‘East West Corridor‘.

Shatin to Central link work site at Diamond Hill station

This proposal was given the go ahead in 2012, in what is now known as the ‘Sha Tin to Central Link‘.

Extending the trains

A longer railway means more passengers – so the West Rail line trains need to be extended.

Stabled MTR trains at Pat Heung depot

With a two pronged approach taken – 17 new 8-car trains were purchased from Changchun Railway Vehicles at a cost of HK$1.38 billion.

And 36 additional carriages were purchased from the Itochu-Kinki Sharyo-Kawasaki Consortium at a cost of HK$1.18 billion, to allow the 348 existing SP1900 EMUs to be reconfigured as a fleet of 65 eight-car trains.

Reconfiguration of the SP1900 trains commended in January 2016, with trains being transferred behind diesel locomotives to Pat Heung depot.

MTR diesel #8005 (Siemens “Eurorunner” model ER20) coupled to a SP1900 EMU at Pat Heung Depot

Where the carriages are turned by crane to suit their new configuration.

With the program completed in May 2018.

Mixing 7 and 8-car trains

Between January 2016 and May 2018 a mix of 7 and 8-car trains operated on the West Rail line.

Mix of 7 and 8-car long trains running on the MTR West Rail line at East Tsim Sha Tsui

The platform information display system was updated to show the length of arriving trains.

Mix of 7 and 8-car long trains running on the MTR West Rail line at East Tsim Sha Tsui

Signage on the platform and platform screen doors indicating where trains will stop.

A handful of 8-car long SP1900 trains now in service on the MTR West Rail line

Pink for 7-car long trains.

'7-car' sticker on the cab door of a MTR SP1900 train

And green for 8-cars.

'8-car' sticker on the cab door of a MTR SP1900 train

Footnote

Platform signage at Hung Hom station is a little confusing – West Rail line train cars are numbered from the Tuen Mun end, but Hung Hom bound trains all stop at the northern end of that platform, no matter the number of carriages.

West Rail train arrives into Hung Hom station

Which results in the carriage numbers being offset by one, depending on how long the train is.

Different stopping marks for 7 and 8-car long trains running on the MTR West Rail line at Hung Hom

Sources

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Platform gap fillers on the MTR East Rail line

The East Rail line has the widest gaps between train and platform on the MTR network, the route having opened to passengers in 1910 as the Kowloon-Canton Railway. In the years that followed and the system modernised, with attempts made to improve passenger safety – platform gap fillers having been tried and failed.

'Mind the gap' at University station

The problem

The East Rail line was built as a ‘main line’ railway, with curved platforms at seven of its 14 stations due to geographical constraints, and is served by a variety of trains – two type of MTR EMU and a variety of locomotives hauling Intercity Through Trains.

SS8 0186 northbound at University station

Curved platforms such as University and Mong Kok East have the widest platform gaps – 25 cm and 20 cm respectively.

Warning signs have been tried at stations.

"Mind the gap. Step across carefully"

On train doors.

'Please mind the gap' signs on the train doors and platform

And on the platform surface.

'Gap black spot' warning on the curved platform at University station

But passengers still fall into the gaps – a total of 283 accidents involving platform gaps occurred between 2013 and 2014 – about 12 per month on average

Enter platform gap fillers

Platform gap fillers are mechanical devices that move towards a stopped train to close the gap, then retract before departure to provide enough clearance for a train to pass.

In 2007 the pre-merger Kowloon–Canton Railway Corporation made the decision to trial mechanical gap fillers (MGFs) at Lo Wu station in real world conditions, in three phases:

  • Phase 1: A 7-day test on two MGFs under manual control at the south ends of Platforms 3 and 4, completed in August 2008.
  • Phase 2: A 6-week test on 10 MGFs under automatic control at Platforms 3 and 4, completed in May 2009.
  • Phase 3: An 8-week test on 98 MGFs under automatic control at all four platforms with wide platform gaps, completed in October 2009.

But the Railways Inspectorate of the Hong Kong Government found the fillers unreliable:

Results of the trial indicated that the MGF system was not reliable during typhoon and inclement weather, and some MGFs were jammed during heavy rain by debris washed by rain water into the MGF mechanism. Results from data collected during the good weather days were also not too promising for reasons below:

(a) Poor availability: The availability of the MGF system was 99.83% only, which was lower than MTRCL’s target of 99.99%. A total of 17 failures were found in 10,000 operating cycles.

(b) Poor reliability: The reliability of the MGF system was found to be 30 times below target. The actual result was a fault every 9,601 cycles, compared to MTRCL’s target of once every 300,000 cycles.

(c) High failure rate: During the trial, 6.1 failures occurred each day. In addition, there were 42 cases of MGF faults requiring resetting/adjusting of MGF by staff, 34 cases of man-machine interface faults requiring staff attention, and 187 cases of signalling/train interface faults.

The cause of further safety issues.

Regular MTR passengers would be expecting MGFs to be available and not pay heed to the platform gap. As such, when a MGF fails to function, it would be a safety hazard for passengers with an increased risk of stepping into the platform gap.

And delayed trains.

We found that with the adoption of MGF, each station was required to incur an extra 15 seconds for each cycle of train door opening and closing due to limitations of the existing East Rail line signalling system. The impact was equivalent to a reduction of two train journeys per hour per direction during peak hours.

According to the results of a passenger survey conducted by the MTR in November 2009, of 1,735 passengers interviewed, 62% said that they would not accept a reduction of 2 train journeys per hour to accommodate installation of MGFs as they do not want to wait longer for trains.

Their eventual finding.

The trial was considered not successful as the MGF system was proved unreliable with prolonged platform dwell time and negative impact on service. MTRCL would therefore explore better solutions to mitigate the platform gap risk.

So what next?

Given the failed trial of platform gap fillers at Lo Wu, the decision was made to combine the required upgrades with the Shatin to Central Link project, which is bringing automatic platform gates, new signalling and new trains to the East Rail line.

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

A total of 2300 automatic platform gates will be installed across all platforms on the upgraded line, along with 140 gap fillers to be installed at Lo Wu, University and Mong Kok East Stations, where the platforms have the widest gaps.

In 2013 a mockup station platform was constructed in the Shatin Freight Yard to test the retrofitting process.

Platform mockup in the Shatin Freight Yard

With work underway levelling and reinforcing platforms for the new infrastructure to rest atop them.

But the platform gates and gap fillers themselves cannot be commissioned until the completion of the Shatin to Central Link sometime after 2020, due to the existing train fleet not being compatible with the new infrastructure.

Sources

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