A history of MTR train control centres

The MTR network has grown since the first train ran in 1979, and so has the systems used to control the network.

Down end of the crossing loop on the Disneyland Resort Line

The initial MTR system

In 1979 the first part of the Mass Transit Railway system opened, between Kwun Tong and Central.

Photo via Apple Daily

With a Central Control Room (CCR) established at Kowloon Bay Depot to manage the first trains.

MTR photo from 1979

The centre being expanded through the 1980s to control the Kwun Tong, Tsuen Wan and Island lines.

MTR photo from 1985

It was then upgraded to a computerised control system provided by CSEE Transport between late 1995 and 1998.

Kowloon Canton Railway

During the 1980s the Kowloon Canton Railway was electrified and modernised.

Photo by Joseph K.K. Lee / gakei.com

With a central signal control room opened at Hung Hom to manage trains on the railway north to Lo Wu.

Photo via 香港巴士論壇

In 1994 the KCR control room was moved to their new head office at Fo Tan.

The control systems also being upgraded.

Railway Technology photo

An expanding MTR network

The Lantau Airport Railway project was launched during the 1990s, but the MTR control room at Kowloon Bay was at maximum capacity.

Airport bound train passes Sunny Bay station

So the decision was made to build a new control centre at Tsing Yi station, big enough to incorporate all existing lines and future extensions.

MTR photo

The centre opened in 1998 to control the brand new Airport Express and Tung Chung Line, with the migration of the Kwun Tong Line, Tsuen Wan Line and Island Line being done in stages between 1999 and 2000, allowing the decommissioning of the Kowloon Bay centre.

Controlling an expanded KCR network

In 2003 the KCR opened the brand new West Rail line, running north from Kowloon.

Tuen Mun bound train approaches at Tin Shui Wai station

With trains being managed by a new control centre at Kam Tin.

The East Rail line was also expanded, with the Ma On Shan branch opened in 2004, followed by the Lok Ma Chau Spur Line in 2007 – but trains on these lines were managed by the existing KCRC Fo Tan control centre.

Passing a Tai Wai bound train on the Ma On Shan line

Rail merger

Following the 2007 MTR–KCR merger the decision was made to merge the operations of Hong Kong’s railways to a single control centre at Tsing Yi.

MTR photo

Work on the 超級車務控制中心 (“Super Operations Control Centre”) commenced in November 2012 with a HK$117 million upgrade of the ​​700 square meter main hall, featuring a 120 meter long ultra-high-definition screen. Control of the East Rail Line and Ma On Shan Line were handed over to Tsing Yi at the end of March 2013, with the West Rail Line handed over on June 23, 2013.

Today 170 employees are responsible for 24 hours operation of the centre.

Further reading

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Fire training simulator at Hong Kong Airport

Hong Kong International Airport is located on the island of Chek Lap Kok, with the 12.48 square kilometres covered with everything needs to support operations at one of the world’s busiest airports – including a fire training simulator.

Overview of Hong Kong International Airport

Two fire stations are located at the airport.

Airport fire station located in the airport midfield

Fire trucks at the ready.

With the training rig located next to the main fire station, on the southern side of the airport island.

Empty midfield of Hong Kong Airport

Made of steel, and ready to be set alight.

Fire training rig at Hong Kong International Airport

The Hong Kong Fire Services Department Airport Fire Contingent describe it as:

A fire training simulator with a fire screen is provided at the training pit near the Main Airport Fire Station for the training of AFC personnel.

The training facility is a steel fabrication representing a Boeing 747-400 series aircraft with a tail section having a high engine representing an MD 11 aircraft. The fuselage length is 25 metres and the wings are cropped beyond the inboard engines. The simulator can simulate various external and internal fire scenarios.

In addition, a fire screen is installed adjacent to the simulator to simulate an aircraft fire situation with intense heat.

And that’s not all!

The Hong Kong Fire Services Department have a second aircraft fire training rig at the Fire and Ambulance Services Academy in Pak Shing Kok.

Further reading

Hong Kong Fire Services Department Airport Fire Contingent website.

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Hong Kong pop up books by Kit Lau

During my 2016 visit to Hong Kong I dropped into a few local bookshops on the hunt for something a big unusual, and I hit gold – the book ‘Hong Kong Pop-Up’ by illustrator, designer, and paper engineer Kit Lau.

The book cost HK$428 and was sealed up in shrink wrapped plastic, so the purchase was a bit of a gamble, but thankfully the text inside was both in English and Chinese, and the pop up buildings mind blowing.

Six different styles of Hong Kong houses are depicted inside ‘Hong Kong Pop Up‘ – each occupying a double page pop-up spread.

  • Cantonese Tenement (Tong Lau)
  • Shanty Town
  • Resettlement Estate
  • Kowloon Walled City
  • Public Housing Estate
  • Private Condominium Complex

And when I visited Hong Kong in 2019 I stumbled upon a second of his books – 《陸上公共交通》 (‘Hong Kong Ground Public Transportation‘).

Again wrapped in plastic I didn’t get a chance to take a look inside before buying it, but this time my luck ran out – all of the text was in Chinese!

Thankfully the artwork was still worth it – double page spreads on the evolution of the Hong Kong Tramways, KMB buses, local taxis, public light buses, the Kowloon Canton Railway, the MTR, and the Peak Tram.

Further reading

Kit Lau describes his creative process here.

Kit Lau’s website can be found at skronex.com, along with his full bibliography.

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MTR ZER4 battery electric locomotives

I’ve written about the MTR’s Brush Traction battery electric locomotives used to help maintain their rail networks before, but there is a new class of locomotive joining the fleet – the CRRC built ZER4 units.

CRRC Corporation photo

The CRRC website describes the ZER4 battery electric locomotives, in this article from December 2015.

The ZER4 Hong Kong Battery Electric Vehicle is developed in accordance with the relevant technical contract requirements of the Hong Kong MTR. It is suitable for the climatic conditions of Hong Kong and is mainly used for the traction of rail vehicles and the shunting of vehicles.

It is a battery electric engineering vehicle that can be powered by the contact net and the vehicle battery. It is suitable for the track line powered by DC 1500V contact network. The construction vehicle is a double-end driver’s cab, the structure of the central corridor, with good visual field conditions, low noise and green environmental protection. This type of engineering vehicle has been applied to the Hong Kong Island South Island Line.

This type of engineering vehicle has the characteristics of excellent performance, high reliability, energy saving and environmental protection, strong applicability, good maintainability and low life cycle cost (LCC). It embodies the design concept of energy saving, emission reduction and green environmental protection.

Main technical features:

  • coupler same as the MTR electric multiple units.
  • air brake system uses the DK-II type electric air brake.
  • dual power supply system, with pantograph.
  • direct-AC electric drive system, and generates four asynchronous traction motors by generating three-phase AC power through a VVVF inverter composed of high-power IGBT modules. The electric brake adopts regenerative braking and resistance braking for energy efficiency.
  • vehicle traction battery charger, which can charge the vehicle battery while running, saving charging waiting time.
  • can be used in multiple unit with others of the same design.
  • The key components of the current receiving device, traction battery pack, traction converter, traction motor, and bogie are all mature, reliable and application-oriented components, with good maintainability and high reliability.

Along with a list of specifications:

Current system: DC1500V (contact net), DC800V (battery)
Electric drive mode: straight-to-electric drive
Gauge: 1435mm
Shaft type: B0-B0
Axle weight: 14t
Wheel diameter: 840mm (new round)
Curve passing ability: 110m
Traction power: 400kW (contact wire), 300kW (battery)
Maximum speed: 65km/h (contact wire), 40km/h (battery)
Starting traction: 100kN (contact wire), 100kN (battery)
Electric braking power: 300kW (contact wire), 300kW (battery)

By January 2016 the new locomotives had entered service on the South Island Line.

With the MTR having invited tenders for additional locomotives in 2019.

Supply of Battery Electric Locomotives
Contract No.: Q070242

MTR Corporation Limited invites qualified suppliers to express their interest in tendering for the supply of 13 units battery electric locomotive, with an option of 6 units. The locomotives shall be running on MTR DUAT Lines with track gauge of 1432 mm, maximum gradient of 3.2%, minimum radius of 140 m at depot, maximum axle load of 17 ton, maximum cant of 150 mm, and maximum cant gradient of 1:440.

The battery electric locomotives shall be bi-mode operated (1500 VDC catenary or traction battery) and be capable to drive in tandem or multiple unit at speed not less than 65 kph on tangent level track with 204 ton trailing load.

A battery related footnote

In 2015 the MTR invited tenders for additional battery banks for their locomotive fleet.

Traction Battery for Battery / Electric Locomotives
Contract No.: Q040908

MTR Corporation Limited invites qualified suppliers to express their interest in tendering for the supply of the traction batteries for Battery / Electric Locomotives.

The scope of supply is 241 battery crates. Each crate shall contain 35 nos. of traction lead acid battery cell of 365AH completed with auto-filling system. The battery crate shall be new and cell case shall be flame retardant and low smoke.

The prequalification process for the tender will take place in June 2015 and tenders will be invited in August 2015.

Further reading

This journal article describes the design of the ZER4 locomotives, but it’s Chinese language AND behind a paywall.

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MTR CKD0A diesel electric locomotives

The list of diesel locomotives in Hong Kong keeps on growing now that I’m digging into the MTR maintenances and work train fleet – the latest entry is the Chinese built CKD0A diesel electric locomotives.

China CNR CKD0A diesel-electric locomotive stabled on a works train at Pat Heung depot

The units were ordered in November 2012:

Following fierce competition, the first independently developed diesel locomotives made on the Chinese mainland have been selected by Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway Corp for use in its world-class transit system.

China CNR Co announced last week that it has secured an order worth more than 160 million yuan ($25.7 million) from the MTR for 23 diesel locomotives made with its proprietary technologies.

The designer and builder of the locomotives is a wholly owned CNR subsidiary headquartered in Dalian, Liaoning province.

According to an announcement from the State-owned railway equipment manufacturer, its CKD0A locomotives ordered by the MTR meet the strictest global emission standards and reduce operational noise to less than 70 decibels, lower than the 78-decibel standard on the Chinese mainland.

It can run at 80 kilometers an hour powered by two electric motors and a diesel engine. The design also provides more interior room by eliminating the need for a gearbox, which also improves the locomotive’s reliability.

The driver’s cab has two sets of controllers equipped with computer and cruise control systems.

The CKD0A locomotive is expected to be used in MTR’s rolling stock in addition to subway vehicle rescue.

The contract calls for the first locomotive to be delivered to MTR by March 2014, followed by a 5,000-kilometer test run.

The manufacturer describes them as:

The CKD0A diesel locomotive is an electric drive diesel locomotive developed by China CNR Dalian Locomotive and Rolling Stock Co., Ltd. according to the requirements of the Hong Kong Railway Company.

The locomotive has the characteristics of low emission, low noise, large traction, strong curve passing ability, high degree of automation, high reliability, small maintenance workload, etc. It is fully applicable to the urban subway company’s shunting operation and is the most advanced direct current in the world. Transmission diesel locomotive. The locomotive adopts the subway limit and is a double-cab indoor corridor structure.

It is equipped with CATERPPILAR company C32 diesel engine, which can meet the EU Stage IIIB emission standard and the loading power is 830kW. It adopts AC and DC electric drive, and the auxiliary equipment drives the AC motor drive mode; auxiliary control The voltage is 74VDC; the locomotive shaft is Bo-Bo, the continuous traction force is 149kN, and a single train 250t train can be started on the 35‰ ramp or at 18km/h. The maximum running speed of the locomotive is 80km/h. Adopting German KNORR An air-to-air brake system controlled by the MBS microcomputer in accordance with the UIC standard; with resistance braking and reconnection control functions; and anti-air-slip anti-slip control function.

Along with a list of specifications.

Diesel engine loading power


Resistance braking maximum power


Maximum operating speed


Continuous speed


Adhesive start traction


Continuous traction


Wheel diameter


Tooth ratio


Fuel reserve


Cooling water reserve


Sand reserve


Oil reserve


Number of cabs


By 2015 locomotives were being unloaded at Pat Heung Depot on the West Rail Line, with the 23 locomotives numbered L9001 through 9023.

The first four locomotives entered service in 2016.

The first four of 23 diesel locomotives which MTR Corp ordered from CCRC Dalian in September 2012 have entered service in Hong Kong following the completion of testing. They will be used to haul maintenance trains on the existing network, and to support the construction of the Shatin – Central Link.

The 830 kW locomotives have a maximum speed of 80 km/h. According to the manufacturer, they are designed to meet international standards, complying with European Stage IIIB emission standards and also taking into account human factors in the layout of the low-noise cabs.

Further reading

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