MTR & AIRPORT EXPRESS TRAINS
All train services in Hong Kong are operated exclusively by MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL), since the merger of MTR and KCR (Kowloon-Canton Railway) in December 2007. MTRCL also took over the Intercity cross-border through services to Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing formerly operated by KCR at the same time. During a five week period following the merger date all KCR signage and logos at KCR stations were replaced with MTR branding and final integration of the systems was completed by the end of September 2008. Under a 50-year agreement MTRCL pays Kowloon Canton Railway Corporation (KCRC) a fixed amount of HK$750 million annually plus a variable amount based on revenue in excess of HK$2.5 billion for operation of services and use of KCRC's rail assets.
Services can be categorised as;
MTR TRAIN SERVICES ("Heavy Rail")
MTR "LIGHT RAIL"
MTR INTERCITY PASSENGER SERVICES
MTR TRAIN SERVICES
Hong Kong's MTR system opened on October 1st 1979 and initially served just one route serving nine stations between Kwun Tong and Shek Kip Mei. The first cross-harbour route was introduced in 1980 when the Kwun Tong Line was extended to Central. The system has since been expanded considerably and, following opening of the Kowloon Southern Link extending West Rail to Hung Hom in southern Kowloon on 16th August 2009, the system now comprises nine interconnected lines covering 174.7kms and serving 82 stations extending from Central, Causeway Bay and Kowloon to Lantau Island and the New Territories. About 1.6 billion passenger journeys are made on the MTR network each year with the record daily ridership being achieved during the 24-hour service operated on Christmas Eve 2010 when 5.6 million journeys were made.
The nine lines are;
ISLAND LINE (serving northern and north-east Hong Kong Island from Sheung Wan to Chai Wan). Average daily patronage (2010) - 797,000.
TSUEN WAN LINE (from Central through the heart of Kowloon to Tsuen Wan). Average daily patronage (2010) - 907,000
TSUEN KWAN O LINE (from North Point on north-east HK Island to Tsuen Kwan O in south-east Kowloon with branches to Po Lam and LOHAS Park. Average daily patronage (2010) - 263,000
TUNG CHUNG LINE (from Hong Kong Station via west Kowloon along the northern coast of Lantau Island to Tung Chung). Average daily patronage (2010) - 192,000
KWUN TONG LINE (from central Kowloon serving northern, eastern and south east Kowloon). Average daily patronage (2010) - 489,000
EAST RAIL (former KCR line from Hung Hom in southern Kowloon via the New Territories to Lo Wu mainland border station and via a branch to Lok Ma Chau mainland border station). Average daily patronage (2010) - 942,000
MA ON SHAN LINE (former KCR branch line from East Rail at Tai Wai along the south side of the Shing Mun River Channel serving eastern New Territories New Towns terminating at Wu Kai Sha). Average daily patronage (2010) - 120,000
WEST RAIL (former KCR line from Hung Hom in southern Kowloon via West Kowloon and western New Territories to Tuen Mun). Average daily patronage (2010) - 333,000
DISNEYLAND RESORT LINE (a short dedicated branch line from the Tung Chung Line at Sunny Bay to Disneyland Resort Station). Average daily patronage (2010) - 11,000
The full MTR NETWORK MAP can be viewed here;
Direction sign to MTR Station
Stations and trains are spotlessly clean, well lit and safe and trains frequent and reliable. Most station platforms are served by escalators and lifts and many stations are now equipped with platform safety doors under an ongoing upgrade programme. In March 2012, MTR announced that 13 stations are to be equipped with new lifts between concourse and street level, with four being completed by the end of 2012 and the remainder by the end of 2015. Station platforms and concourses are ventilated and air-conditioned with temperatures being kept at 27C and 29C respectively.
Entry to station platform is via barriers which are operated by single-journey ticket, Octopus Card or various MTR passes such as One-Day Tourist Pass or Airport Express Travel Pass.
Station platform entry barriers operated by single-journey ticket, Octopus Card or various types of MTR pass
Wide barrier for passengers with luggage or special needs
Several stations have free internet access via terminals at iCentres in the concourse. However, from July 2013 free wi-fi hotspots will be available at the paid areas of all MTR stations, but not on platforms or trains. Each wi-fi session is limited to 15 minutes and a maximum of 5 sessions per day. Transferring between interconnecting lines is usually fast and simple and at many stations simply involves walking a few metres to an adjacent platform. Some subways at interconnecting stations East Tsim Sha Tsui/Tsim Sha Tsui stations and Central/Hong Kong Stations are equipped with moving walkways.
MTR Central Station Island Line platform
There are toilet facilities at 38 of the 82 stations on the network, these being mainly former KCR stations on the East Rail and West Rail lines. Public toilets are available within 200-metres of all stations not provided with toilet facilities except Prince Edward. In March 2012, MTRCL announced that of the twenty interchange stations on the MTR network, the ten currently without public toilets would be equipped with toilets by 2020, with Mongkok, Prince Edward and Admiralty stations, where major reconstruction work is to be carried out, being equipped by 2015. At stations not equipped with public toilets, MTR staff have been instructed to allow passengers to use staff toilets on request. Public toilets have also been built by MTRCL at public transport interchanges connected to four stations on the Tsuen Kwan O Line and public toilets will be provided within, or adjacent to, stations of new lines and extensions in future. Since 2008 MTRCL has been undergoing its "In Touch With Nature" refurbishment programme for the East Rail (former KCR) line which will see refurbishment of all stations on the line by 2016 using an architectural theme with earth-toned materials in warm and natural colours. Tai Po Market was the first station to be completed and work at Mongkok East Station was also completed during 2010. Refurbishment work at Shatin, Fanling and Sheung Shui stations is currently under way and due to be completed by mid-2013. The whole refurbishment programme is expected to cost about HK$4 billion.
Train seats are rather austere, polished steel benches and standing is commonplace. Eating, drinking and smoking are not allowed in trains or on platforms. In July 2010 MTR began a programme of replacing some seats on Island Line trains with wall-mounted supports for standing passengers to create more standing room and space for passengers with wheelchairs, luggage and baby strollers. Trains on the Tsuen Wan, Kwun Tong and Tsueng Kwan O lines will also be refitted in due course.
Mobile phone signals can be received throughout the whole system and 4G technology is being introduced at stations from late-2012, with priority being given to the busiest stations such as Causeway Bay, Central, Tsim Sha Tsui, Mong Kok and Admiralty. 4G is expected to be available throughout the whole network by June 2013.
Platform screen doors were been retro-fitted to platforms at all above-ground and open stations by the end of 2011, with the exception of East Rail line, where it is not considered viable owing to curved platforms at stations on this line. The programme for retro-fitting platform screen doors is funded by a ten cent levy on all journeys taken using Octopus Card which commenced in 2000 will end in 2014, two years ahead of the original date.
Directions to lines and platforms within MTR interchange stations are clearly signed
Information boards indicate which exits are nearest to local buildings and attractions
Luggage is allowed on the MTR but passengers are requested to use the lifts (where available) rather than escalators
Since 2008 MTR Corporation has brought into service 22 new trains and renovated 69 existing trains internally to make boarding and disembarking easier and also make trains easier for disabled passengers to use. New internal and external colour schemes have been introduced with white, green and purple replacing silver, red and blue. The additional trains were to acquired to cope with the increase in passengers following opening in August 2009 of the Kowloon Southern Link which connects East Rail and West Rail. In November 2008 MTR placed its first order with a mainland Chinese company, Changchun Railway Vehicles, for ten new trains costing HK$1.1 billion to be delivered in 2011/2012 to improve frequency on the Island, Kwun Tong, Tsuen Wan and Tseung Kwan O lines. Four of the new trains underwent testing on the Kwun Tong Line from October 2011 with the first new train being introduced into service on 7th December 2011. By March 2012 five new trains were in service enabling 370 additional journeys a week and increased service frequencies on the Tsuen Wan Line at peak times and on the Tseung Wan, Kwun Tong and Island Lines at weekends. The new trains have LCD screens in each compartment to provide audio-visual infotainment, CCTV cameras and improved ventilation. Floors, designed to reduce noise from under the train, and rubber seals fitted around door frames ensure quieter journeys.
Since final integration of the MTR/KCR networks was completed in September 2008 interchange barriers at Kowloon Tong, Nam Cheong and Mei Foo have been removed enabling passengers seamless interchange between MTR and former KCR lines.
In November 2009, in a bid to improve caring and courteous behaviour, MTR introduced a pilot scheme for priority seats on the Kwun Tong, Island, East Rail, West Rail, Tsuen Kwan O, Ma On Shan and Tung Chung Lines. One pair of seats located near the doors in selected carriages of trains on each of these lines are designated Priority Seats with the intention that these be offered to people in need such as elderly, pregnant, handicapped or injured. During the first month of the pilot MTR Ambassadors on board trains rewarded passengers who offer their seats to others with free single-journey tickets.
Priority Seats for the needy have been a feature of MTR trains since November 2009
MTR fares increased by an average of 2.05% from 13th June 2010, the first fare increase in 13 years. However, journeys on Airport Express Line, journeys to the border stations of Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau which commence from stations south of MTR East Rail Tai Wai Station and MTR cross-boundary Inter-City services were excluded from the increase. A further fare increase of 2.2% which saw most fares rise by ten or twenty cents per journey was implemented on 13th June 2011.
From 17th June 2012, a fare increase, averaging 5.4%, the
maximum allowed under the government's fare adjustment mechanism based
on a formula which combines the consumer price index and transport wage
rises, took effect. Single-journey fares under HK$7 and Airport Express fares were not adjusted at June 2012. Single-journey
ticket fare adjustments are made in units 50 cents (MTR Ticket Issuing
Machines accept coins in denominations of 50 cents, 1 dollar, 2 dollars,
5 dollars and 10 dollars). Single-journey fares under HK$7 were not increased as it was considered the percentage increase would be
disproportionate, with the result that there were 596 journeys
(representing about 2% of a total of all fare combinations and mainly child and senior concessionary fares), where
single-journey fares were lower than Octopus Card fares by between 10
cents and 40 cents.
Following a five-yearly review of the fare adjustment mechanism (FAM) by the government, MTR fares were further increased by 2.7% overall from 30th June 2013, which is less than the 3.2% increase which would have applied under the original adjustment formula. Under the new formula agreed between the government and MTR, a more objective and transparent methodology is used to calculate the value of the Productivity Factor in the FAM formula. About 73% of fares will increase by no more than 20 cents and about 2% of fares remain unchanged. Following the 2013 fare adjustment the number of journeys where single-journey fares are lower than Octopus fares has been reduced from 596 to 206. A chart detailing journeys for which single-journey fares are lower than Octopus Card fares is available on the MTR website;
To mitigate the fare adjustments MTR Corporation is offering a new package of concessions including a new MTR City Saver ticket scheme, from no later than 2nd quarter 2014, whereby a HK$400 pass will enable passengers to bulk purchase 40 MTR journeys within 30 days within a pre-designated urban area. The "10% Same-Day Second-Trip Discount" promotion, which was due to expire 30th June 2013, has been extended to 31st March 2014.
Using the MTR is simple. Entry and exit barriers are automated and operated by either Octopus Card or by single journey ticket which can be obtained from ticket machines in the station. Tickets and Octopus Cards can also be purchased at Customer Service Centres within each station. Automatic Card Readers at the entry and exit barriers at each station encode the journey details on the magnetic strip and either deduct the correct fare from the Octopus Card on exit at the destination station or if a single journey ticket is used, retain the ticket. Services operate at frequent intervals from approx 06-00 to 00-30.
MTR has a luggage limit which stipulates that which stipulate passengers may each carry one piece of luggage with the total dimension (length, width and height) not exceeding 170cm and the length of any one side not exceeding 130cm. This has not been rigidly enforced. However, from 9th October 2012, initially for a trial period of three months, MTR has imposed a
32kg weight limit on luggage being carried by passengers on East Rail
Line. The trial was extended from January 2013 until further notice and, from 4th February 2013, the weight limit was reduced to 23kg. This is in addition to the existing MTR luggage limit which
stipulates that passengers may carry one piece of luggage with total
dimension (length, width, height) of 170cm and the length of any one
side not exceeding 130cm. All passengers entering platforms through wide
entry gates at Lo Wu, Lok Ma Chau, Sheung Shui, Fanling, Tai Po Market and Fo Tan stations
must have their luggage weighed and passengers with overweight luggage
will be requested to leave the station. At other stations on East Rail
Line smaller weighing scales are being provided where passengers may be
requested to weigh luggage if it is suspected of being overweight. The
trial has been implemented in specific response to complaints and
demonstrations from the general public in relation to the activities of
cross-border parallel traders who regularly use the MTR to transport
large quantities of boxes of goods weighing up to 80kg on trolleys,
causing congestion within trains and outside stations and on station
platforms at stations near the border. MTR has a dedicated By-laws Inspection Unit (BIU), which is being increased from 39 to 59 members to enforce MTR By-laws at East Rail Line stations, supported by a team of more than 90 private security personnel. The passenger luggage weight limit applies only on East Rail Line and not on other MTR lines.
By the end of November 2012, service enhancements on the Tung Chung, Kwun Tong and Tsuen Wan lines were due to be implemented, providing an additional 530 journeys a week, allowing a weekly increase in passenger capacity of 1.3 million. On the Tung Chung Line, at peak hours the proportion of trains reaching Tung Chung, rather than terminating at Tsing Yi, is increased from about half to two-thirds. Also on the Tung Chung Line, at weekends, train frequency is increased to every 6 and a half minutes, whereas previous frequency was 8 to 10 minutes. On the Kwun Tong and Tsuen Wan lines, from 9.30am to 7.30pm on Saturdays, train frequency is increased from three to two and a half minutes and from 7.30pm to midnight, four minutes instead of five.
As part of energy saving measures, MTR is to adopt a "bowl-shaped" track design at stations on all future lines including five projects currently under construction and due for completion between 2014 and 2020: Sha Tin to Central Link, West Island Line, South Island Line, Kwun Tong Line Extension and "Xpress Rail" high-speed link from Guangzhou to West Kowloon. The track design will dip the train down as it leaves a station and raise it when approaching the next one, resulting in trains starting from stations with more energy and arriving with less resulting in less electricity consumption and fewer carbon emissions.
Fares are inexpensive and full details of fares, routes and journey times are available from the MTR Journey Planner;http://www.mtr.com.hk/jplanner/eng/planner_index.php
In addition, MTR has four apps available for mobile devices;
The popular “MTR MOBILE” app, originally launched in October 2010, jpurney planner with fare information, has since been enhanced from June 2012 with a search function for point-to-point first and last train information and location of barrier-free facilities. A full revamp to create an even better user interface of this app is to be carried out in late 2012.
“NEXT TRAIN”, launched 14th June 2012, provides real-time information on the next four trains arriving at a specified station on the Tung Chung Line and Airport Express.
“MTR TOURIST”, launched 14th June 2012, assists visitors in navigating around the MTR system by providing a journey planner with relevant information such as routing, interchange stations, platform numbers and the exit nearest to the intended destination or tourist attraction. The app also includes a point to point visitor attraction search, Tourist Ticket information, details of Airport Express Shuttle Bus services, Intercity service information and travel tips.
MTR “TRAFFIC NEWS”, launched September 2012, provides information during serious train service disruptions. It includes notification of train service suspensions or serious disruptions of 20 minutes or more, information on train service when Typhoon Signal No. 8 or above is issued, notices related to overnight train services during special festive days, e.g. New Year’s Eve overnight service and a search function for Rail Service Suspension –Passenger Guide.
On the vast majority of journeys Octopus Card users enjoy lower fares than passengers using single-journey tickets. However, there are a small number of journeys (mainly on West Rail and Light Rail) where using a single-journey ticket costs either ten or twenty cents less than the Octopus fare. This situation occurred as a result of the fare increases in June 2010, June 2011 and June 2012 when Octopus fares were rounded to ten cents whereas single-journey fares were rounded to fifty cents and it was felt that for some low fare journeys rounding up to nearest fifty cents would result in a disproprtionate increase so fares are unchanged.
In the Hong Kong SAR Chief Executive's Policy Address on 12th October 2011 it was announced that Hong Kong residents age 65 and over and people with disabilities will be able to make journeys on public transport, including MTR, for a maximum fare of HK$2 per ride when using Octopus Card. The scheme, which benefits some 1.1 million people is being introduced in phases, with the first phase of the scheme, applicable to MTR journeys became operational on 28th June 2012. Under the terms of the "Public Transport Fare Concession Scheme for the Elderly and Elegible Persons with Disabilities", the government reimburses transport companies for lost revenue. Prior to the introduction of this scheme, holders of the Elder Octopus Card were elegible for maximum HK$2 fare for MTR journeys taken on Wednesdays, Saturdays and public holidays in addition to normal concessionary fares on other days.
During November 2010 MTR installed about 40 portable life-saving defibrillators at 10 of its busiest stations under a trial scheme. During that period defibrillators were used three times and in October 2011 MTR decided to equip all 84 MTR stations with defibrillators. The 237 defibrillators, which cost a total of HK$3.5 million, are available at customer service centres or platform booths and MTR's 750 managers have been trained by the Fire Services Department in cardio pulmonary resuscitation and the use of defibrillators.
MTR train arriving at Tai Po Market Station on East Rail Line
The Airport Express operates over a 35.3km line from Hong Kong Station on Hong Kong Island via Kowloon, Tsing Yi and Hong Kong International Airport stations to Asia World-Expo Station which is just a short distance beyond the airport. It provides a fast dedicated service to and from the airport and carries an average of 33,000 passengers daily (2010) of which about one-third are business travellers. Tsing Yi and Kowloon Stations are interchange stations for the MTR network. Hong Kong Station is also served by the Tung Chung Line and is connected to MTR Central Station by subway and moving walkways. Journey times to/from the airport are;
Tsing Yi Station 12 minutes
Kowloon Station 20 minutes
Hong Kong Station 24 minutes
From the airport to Asia World-Expo is an additional 4 minutes journey time.
Trains to/from the airport operate daily every 10 minutes from 05-50 until midnight and every 12 minutes from midnight until close of service at 00-48.
For more information regarding Airport Express see TO/FROM AIRPORT
Airport Express Train passing through Sunny Bay Station
MTR LIGHT RAIL
The MTR Light Rail system was commissioned in September 1988 and formerly operated by KCR until December 2007.
Modern electric “streetcars” operate frequent services along twelve interconnecting lines serving 36.15kms and 68 stations in the New Towns and suburbs of Yuen Long, Tin Shui Wai, Yuen Long and Tuen Mun in the western New Territories. Some of the stations are interchange stations with MTR West Rail. The current fleet of train cars numbers 141, having been increased from 119 in 2008 with the phasing in of an additional 22 LRV's costing HK$400 million between 2009 and 2010 in order to meet additional demand after following commissioning of the Kowloon Southern Link in September 2009 and population growth in the New Territories. The new trains incorporate CCTV surveillance and a new internal and external livery which is being extended to the existing fleet. The 69 first-generation LRV's were refurbished to improve comfort and capacity in a programme which was completed in 2011. The average daily patronage (2010) is 441,000. The system is supported by a fleet of 143 MTR feeder buses.
The Light Rail System is easy to use. Fare payment can be made either by Octopus Card or by individual journey ticket which can be obtained from ticket machines on the platform. The system is based on honesty and there are no entry or exit barriers at stations. Passengers simply walk onto the platform and either validate Octopus Card or buy a ticket from a ticket machine. On disembarking at the destination station the Octopus Card must be "touched" on one of the card readers on the platform to ensure the correct fare is deducted.
Light Rail Octopus platform entry fare processor
Light Rail Octopus platform exit fare processor
Light Rail instruction notice for Octopus Card users
Fares are structured by zone, there being five zones. Spot ticket checks are carried out by MTR revenue protection staff and hefty fines can be imposed for non payment. Detailed route maps are displayed on all station platforms. Services operate from approx 05-30 to 01-00.
For full schedules see;
For a detailed map of the Light Rail system see;
Second generation Light Rail car in new livery, seen leaving Lam Tei Station
Interior of second-generation Light Rail car
MTR Light Rail also operates some feeder bus services mainly in the North West New Territories along routes serving Light Rail and West Rail
MTR INTERCITY PASSENGER SERVICES
MTR, in conjunction with the Chinese mainland authorities, operates cross border Intercity through passenger services formerly operated by KCR. These services, known as the Guangzhou - Kowloon Through Train (KTT), start from the terminus at Hung Hom in Kowloon. Hung Hom Station is also served by MTR East Rail.
There are twelve daily services from Hung Hom to Guangzhou East of which ten call at Dongguang with a journey time of approx 1 hour 40 minutes. One service calls at Foshan and terminates at Zhaoqing, a journey time of around 4 hours.
There are also trains to and from Beijing West (journey time 24 hours) and Shanghai (journey time 20 hours) on alternate days.
Hong Kong Immigration formalities are completed at Hung Hom Station (not at the border).
For full timetable, fares, ticketing and online ticket purchase see;
In June 2012 CSR Sifang, a subsidiary of China's leading train manufacturer, China South Locomotive and Rolling Stock Corporation Limited, was awarded a contract to supply 50 new T-class carriages for the KTT which are expected to go into service in October 2013. The carriages comprise 40 cushioned-seat carriages, five combined cushioned-seat and luggage carriages and five dining cars.
Guangzhou - Hong Kong Intercity Express passing through University Station
A new HK$39.5 billion express rail link between Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Guangzhou is being planned by MTR Corporation. The line known as "Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link" (XRL) will run from its terminus at West Kowloon via Futian Station in Shenzhen to Guangzhou East Station. Construction is expected to begin in 2009 and when the line comes into operation by 2015 will enable the journey time from Hong Kong to Guangzhou to be reduced from nearly two hours to just 48 minutes and to Shenzhen to 14 minutes. For more information on XRL see WHAT'S PLANNED