Battery powered trolleybuses in Beijing

Trolleybuses normally require a web of overhead wires in order to supply power to the electric vehicles that run beneath them – but in the streets of Beijing’s Wangfujing shopping district, they aren’t necessary.

Cars are allowed along the southern stretch of Wangfujing

The buses drop their trolleypoles.

Trolleybus running on battery power through the Wangfujing district of central Beijing

But keep moving.

Trolleybus running on battery power through the Wangfujing district of central Beijing

Having switched to battery power instead.

Trolleybus running on battery power through the Wangfujing district of central Beijing

Then put their trolleypoles back up elsewhere in the city.

Trolleybus and taxis on Jingshan Front Street

Trolleybus stuck in traffic on Jingshan Front Street

I found trolleybus routes 103 “Beijing Railway Station – Beijing Zoo” and route 104 “Beijing Railway Station – Wuluju” running through the Wanfujing pedestrian zone in battery mode – this list by Zhiyuan Jiang details Beijing’s other trolleybus routes, some of which also use battery mode in pedestrian areas.

Further reading

The Beijing Bus article at Wikipedia has more detail on the the history of Beijing’s trolleybuses.

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MTR Through Trains and the Express Rail Link

September 2018 saw first high-speed train service travel between between Hong Kong and Mainland China, following the opening of the the new Express Rail Link and the new West Kowloon Terminus. So what has happened to the locomotive hauled Intercity Through Trains and their terminus at Hung Hom?

Photo by Philip-Fong/AFP

My initial thought was that the Intercity Through Trains would be redirected to the new railway, removing the need for overtaking moves on the East Rail line, and freeing up track capacity for more MTR services.

In Mainland China conventional and high speed trains often share the same stations.

Looking down on platforms 12 and 13

The Wikipedia article on the West Kowloon Terminus suggested both long and short distance trains would use the new terminal:

West Kowloon Station features 9 long distance platforms and 6 short haul regional platforms, giving a total of 15 platforms.

  • Long distance trains will be 16-cars long and use platforms on the east side of the station: 9 tracks with 4 island platforms and 1 side platform.
  • Short distance trains will be 8-cars long and use platforms on the west side of the station: 6 tracks with 5 island platforms and 2 side platforms, with separate boarding and alighting platforms.

With the MTR’s Express Rail Link website listing the destinations served by the new railway.

Short-distance services

  • 4 trains per hour to Futian and Shenzhen North
  • 1 train per hour to Humen
  • 2 trains per hour to Guangzhou South

Long-haul services

  • 13 trains per day to 16 major Chinese cities, including Beijing West, Shijiazhuang, Zhengzhou East, Wuhan, Changsha South and Shanghai Hongqiao.

The Mass Transit Railway also purchased nine 8-car high speed trains for use on the new line – named Vibrant Express (Chinese: 動感號) to the same design as the existing CRH CRH380A train.

But a few months after the new express rail link opened, and MTR Intercity Through Trains continue to run from Hung Hom station.

MTR electric locomotive TLS002 leads the southbound KTT service into the Hung Hom terminus

With no mention of service changes on the MTR website.

And train travel website The Man in Seat 61 listing three options to travel from Hong Kong to Beijing.

  • Option 1, by direct classic sleeper train. Arguably the nicest & cheapest way between Beijing and Hong Kong is the classic sleeper train. This takes 24 hours (an afternoon, a night and a morning) and runs every two days, with soft & hard sleepers & restaurant car.
  • Option 2, by direct high-speed train in just 8h58. The Guangzhou-Kowloon high-speed line opened on 23 September 2018, allowing direct high-speed trains to link Beijing and Hong Kong at up to 350 km/h (217 mph).
  • Option 3, by high-speed sleeper train. Take a high-speed Vibrant train to Guangzhou South, then a D-category high-speed sleeper to Beijing. This involves one simple same-station change of train, but it’s arguably the most practical and time-effective option of all.

So how long will locomotive hauled trains continue on the MTR East Rail line? The new Shatin to Central Link works at Hung Hom have left space for them, so who knows.

Another theory

Over on the HKiTalk forums I found another theory:

The design of the Hong Kong section is only suitable for the EMU. The loading gauge of the underground tunnels is too small for SS8 locomotives and 25T carriages, and their axle load is too high

True? I can’t be sure, but it sounds logical.

My readers weigh in

@tzk1810 on Twitter explains why the existing Through Trains can’t use the new line.

And a different track connection

In 2012 citizen media outlet InMediaHK mentioned a rail link called the ‘羅湖分岔綫’ (‘Lo Wu Bifurcation’).

Stub tunnels for this link were provided in the Express Rail Link mainline.

But the MTR states they have no plans to complete the link any time soon.

But the MTR Corporation said the plans were a ‘nominal provision’ to allow for the possibility of an extension in future on a line expected to operate for more than 100 years.

‘This does not mean that there is an actual plan for such extensions as there is no such need at present,’ an MTR spokesman said.

The MTR did study having the express rail services use the existing line to the mainland, which runs via Lo Wu, but there was no plan for a spur line, the spokesman said.

The Transport and Housing Bureau also said there was no plan for an extension, though a spokesman said it would ‘regularly review the long- term railway needs of Hong Kong and will consult the public when updating the long-term blueprint’.

Footnote – platforms at the West Kowloon Terminus

Here is a diagram of the track and platform layout, included in a 2012 ArchDaily article.

The Wikipedia article on the West Kowloon Terminus explains the track layout:

West Kowloon Station features 9 long distance platforms and 6 short haul regional platforms, giving a total of 15 platforms.

  • Long distance trains will be 16-cars long and use platforms on the east side of the station: 9 tracks with 4 island platforms and 1 side platform.
  • Short distance trains will be 8-cars long and use platforms on the west side of the station: 6 tracks with 5 island platforms and 2 side platforms, with separate boarding and alighting platforms.

And here it is overlayed on the surrounding neighbourhood.

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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 at least some of the six existing 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 the diagram above doesn’t help to clarify – it reads:


Which translated is:

Existing East Rail and West Rail Line

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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