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 line is coloured light blue on the MTR map.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A "Mind the gap" sticker
# Under construction
^ Planning in progress
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 .