KCR East

East Rail Line

The (formerly called KCR East Rail, Chinese: 九廣東鐵) is one of the ten MTR lines in Hong Kong. It used to be one of the three lines of the KCR network. It starts at East Tsim Sha Tsui Station in Kowloon and branches in the north to end at Lo Wu or Lok Ma Chau stations, both at the border crossing points to Shenzhen. The route used to be the only railway line of the KCRC, but following the construction of , it was designated KCR East Rail to avoid confusion.

The same railway is used for passenger and freight services crossing the border with Shenzhen to various cities in mainland China, including Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing. These longer-distance passenger services (dubbed "Through Trains") start at Hung Hom and end at their terminus in the mainland. The line is generally double-tracked and electrified, except for certain goods sheds. Immigration and customs facilities are available at Hung Hom (for Through Train passengers) and Lo Wu/Lok Ma Chau (for border interchange passengers) stations.

The railway line was operated by Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation (KCRC) prior to the MTR-KCR merger and has since been taken over by MTR Corporation on 2 December 2007 after the merger completed.

The line is coloured light blue on the MTR map.


The construction of East Rail, now started in 1910, then as the Kowloon-Canton Railway. The section of the railway located in Hong Kong was referred to as the "British Section", while the remaining route to Canton (now Guangzhou) was called the "Chinese Section", now the Guangzhou-Shenzhen Railway. Initially, service was only from Yau Ma Tei station to Fanling station with a tunnel through Beacon Hill.

After the "Chinese Section" was completed, through-train service became available to Canton, through Sham Chun (now Shenzhen). Lo Wu station also serves as a border crossing, with a bridge across the Sham Chun River, the natural border between Hong Kong and China. Trains had to stop at Lo Wu station after Communist China closed the border and suspended the through-train service in 1949.

The line was generally single track, with a passing loop at each station.

The line was originally built with narrow gauge tracks, but just before opening standard gauge track was laid and the original tracks were used to build a branch line, the Sha Tau Kok Railway from Fanling to Sha Tau Kok. This branch was unsuccessful and closed on 1 April 1928 following the opening of a road that ran parallel to the tracks.

Through the years, more stations continued to be added to the line. Sheung Shui station was opened in the 1930s, and Ma Liu Shui (now University) station opened in 1955.

The development of the towns along the line began to grow immensely during the 1970s, prompting a redevelopment of the Kowloon-Canton Railway. The original Kowloon station terminus at Tsim Sha Tsui was too small and had no room for expansion, so a new terminus site was chosen in Hung Hom, then known as Kowloon station. The new Kowloon station replaced the old one in 1974. Today, the clock tower is the only structure left from the old terminus, and is a landmark near the Cultural Centre, Space Museum and the Star Ferry pier. Some six pillars were relocated to the Urban Council Centennial Park in TST East. A big bell is stored at Ho Tung Lau. The original Hung Hom station at Chatham Road South was also demolished.

The line was entirely duplicated and electrified. This work involved building a new tunnel through Beacon Hill and providing an interchange with the original MTR network. The development finished in sections between 1982 and 1983, with new electric multiple units replacing diesel locomotives. During the electrification, more stations were added to the line.

The 1990s saw rapid development and changes within the railway. In 1996, the first refurbished Metro Cammell EMU was put into service, and trains now allow passengers to traverse from one end to another (except for the first class car), when trains once ran on four three-car EMUs. 348 of the 351 railcars were refurbished except for unit E44 (144-244-444), of which #144 was preserved at the Hong Kong Railway Museum. Each trainset is still made up of 12 cars (with one first-class car). Prior to the rule proclaimed in 1994 which fixed the number of cars on each trainset to 12, trains were inconsistent in terms of length, ranging from six cars (two EMUs), nine cars (three EMUs) to 12 cars (four EMUs).

In addition, trains no longer have the monotonous design of having a red stripe running across the middle from the cab to the end; the doors now have a red coating, and the window panes along with the upper part are fashioned with blue paint. The design of the front – which encapsulates the driver's cab – is commonly referred to as the "Yellow-cab". It was given a modern appearance, capped with a silver coating, and digital display provided information for the train's destination.

The design of the EMU was modified as well: four more sets of doors being added to each car, adding up to a total of ten sets of doors, each side with five; the introduction of new passenger information plasma display; and more standing space by rearranging seating patterns from the traditional back-to-back seating to a latitudinal design. The KCRC had signed a contract with giant French manufacturer GEC-Alstom to be in charge of the refurbishment taking place at its depot at Ho Tung Lau.

Route Features

The line starts at an underground station, East Tsim Sha Tsui underneath Salisbury Road. As the train leaves, the train travels in a tunnel underground. The track emerges to the surface at Hung Hom Station. The rest of the track is on ground level/elevated.


Tunnels on the East Rail Line have numbers assigned to them. When the railway was first opened, there were five tunnels:

  1. North of today's Mong Kok East Station
  2. Beacon Hill Tunnel
  3. South of where University Station stands today
  4. North of the station
  5. At Tai Po Kau

During the construction of the Cross Harbour Tunnel, which opened in 1972, the section of tracks near Oi Man Estate, Ho Man Tin was covered to construct the section of Princess Margaret Road connecting to the Cross Harbour Tunnel. A new tunnel was therefore created and given the number 1A.

During the modernization of the line in the early 1980s, Tunnels 1, 3, 4 were removed by demolishing the mounds above them. Tunnel 1A already had double track width when built; a completely new Beacon Hill Tunnel (Tunnel 2) was constructed and took over the original one; and Tunnel 5 was doubled. There was also a tunnel built underneath Salisbury Road after East Tsim Sha Tsui Station has been constructed.

Rolling stocks

Currently there are two types of commuter trains running on the East Rail Line. 29 sets of the forementioned Metro Cammell EMU. In 2003 they are joined with 8 sets of SP1900 EMU trains, manufactured by the Japan-based Kinki Sharyo Co., Ltd.. Both models share same exterior color scheme, train doors arrangement (5-pair per car) and maximum speed, as well as consisting of 12 carriages per train. All of the East Rail Line trains are being maintained at Ho Tung Lau Depot in Sha Tin District.

First class compartment

East Rail Line is the only remaining railway in Hong Kong which offers first-class commuter service. One of the 12 carriages of each train is furbished as the first-class carriage. These compartments have softer and wider seat arrangements; however, standing in the first class car is common during rush hour. Riding on this carriage costs twice that of a standard-class journey and passengers are required to buy the first class ticket or second check their Octopus cards on the first class reader (located at the platform) before entering the first-class car.

1 Hong Kong Tramways was once providing first class compartment trailers. They were withdrawn at the end of 1982 for good.

2 Although Airport Express train provides similar travel level, MTR never defines it first class. Airport Express passenger will still pay the same fare while riding on the Tung Chung Line commuter train under special arrangement.

Safety problems

The Environment, Transport and Works Bureau reprimanded the KCRC for not immediately notifying the Government when it found problems with its East Rail trains in 2005. Secretary for the Bureau Dr Sarah Liao said she has ordered the KCRC to inspect all its trains, and did not rule out suspending services if there are safety doubts.

Dr Liao ordered the chairman to review the corporation's operations, including its management and overall system, and submit a report. KCRC Chairman Michael Tien accepted responsibility for the corporation's poor judgement in not sharing the information with the public in a timely matter.

On 21 January 2006, Michael Tien stated that the safety problems of East Rail had been controlled, and the train service was expected to operate as usual, including train service in the Chinese New Year.

Train accidents

On 25 November 1984, a train derailed between Sheung Shui and Fanling station. The incident occurred when the driver, preparing to back the train up to Sheung Shui station, failed to follow a speed/stop signal while the train was exceeding the speed limit. The train crashed into a boulder/buffer with the first two cars piling on top of each other. The degree of which they were damaged was so extensive that the cars never returned to service. Luckily, the passengers were unloaded prior to the crash while the driver sustained only minor injuries. However, the accident caused train services to suspend for the rest of the day and the incident spurred a series of public outcries concerning railway safety. It is certain that this was, and perhaps will remain, Hong Kong's most disastrous railway accident in its history.


KCRC switched from ATO to manual control (under protection of ATP system) on 15 January, 2006 to reduce stress on trains until a permanent solution is found. This resulted in a decreased frequency (from 24 to 21 trains per hour) and lengthened trip time (increase by 90 seconds to 42.5 minutes). KCRC also temporarily transferred some staff from West Rail Line to cope with recent maintenance of trains.

A "Mind the gap" sticker

Concern of platform gap

The platform gap at several stations (Lo Wu, Tai Wo, University, Kowloon Tong, Mong Kok East, and East Tsim Sha Tsui) may be a safety concern. KCRC has visually marked the "Gap Black Spots" on the platforms of those stations and stated that "plates" will be installed above the gap between the train and station. The platform gap is mainly caused by the curvature of the station and how the train enters the station area.


Except for East Tsim Sha Tsui Station, all the station platforms on East Rail Line are above ground and open air. In May, 2008, MTR announced plans to renew these stations, most of which have been in service for over half a century. Refurbishment is not expected to be fully completed until 2016 at the earliest. The stations providing local commuter service on this line are listed blow:


* Proposed
# Under construction
^ Planning in progress

Future development

The Northern Link will go from Kam Sheung Road Station to Lok Ma Chau Station, and to Sheung Shui Station via Chau Tau Station.

Future plans call for moving the southern terminus back to Hung Hom station with East Tsim Sha Tsui station and the track to Hung Hom becoming an extension to . Hong Kong bound passengers would change at Hung Hom to West Rail trains for journeys to East Tsim Sha Tsui and further on .

In the latest Sha Tin to Central Link proposal, the will extend southwards across the Victoria Harbour, and have two more stations on the Hong Kong Island: Exhibition and Admiralty.


External links

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