MTR, or Mass Transit Railway, is the rapid transit railway system in Hong Kong. The MTR first began service in 1979 and officially merged with the Kowloon Canton Railway (KCR) on 2 December 2007, still bearing the same name in English. The network includes 211.6 km of rail with 150 stations, including 82 railway stations and 68 light rail stops. The MTR system is currently being operated by MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL). Due to its efficiency and affordability, the MTR system is a common mode of public transport in Hong Kong, with over 4 million trips made in an average weekday. The integration of the Octopus smart card fare-payment technology into the MTR system in September 1997 has further enhanced the ease of commuting on the MTR.
In 1967, construction of the MTR was prompted by a government-commissioned study. The Hong Kong Government had previously commissioned a study in the 1960s to find solutions to the growing traffic problem caused by the expansion of the city's economy. Construction started soon after the release of the study, and the first line was opened in 1979. The MTR was immediately popular with residents of Hong Kong; as a result, subsequent lines have been built to cover more territory. There are continual debates regarding how and where to expand the MTR network.
The study was submitted to the Legislative Council on 1968-02-14. The consultants received new data of 1966 by-census in 1968-03-06. A short supplementary report was submitted on 1968-03-22 and amended in June 1968. The by-census indicated that the projected 1986 population was reduced to 5,647,000, a reduction from a previous estimate by more than 1 million. The dramatic reduction in projection affected town planning. The population distribution was largely different from the original study. The 1986 populations of Castle Peak New Town, Sha Tin New Town, and, to a lesser extent, Tsuen Wan New Town, were not as high as expected, and the plan of a new town in Tseung Kwan O was abandoned. In this updated scenario, the consultants diminished the scale of the recommended system. The supplementary report stated that the originally suggested four tracks between Admiralty station and Mong Kok station should be reduced to two, and only the Island Line, Tsuen Wan Line, and Kwun Tong Line should be constructed in the system. The other lines would be placed in the list of extensions. This report led to the final study in 1970.
In 1970, a system with four lines was laid out and planned as part of the British consultants' new report, Hong Kong Mass Transit: Further Studies. The four lines were to be the Kwun Tong Line, Tsuen Wan Line, Island Line, and East Kowloon Line. However, the lines that were eventually constructed were somewhat different compared to the lines that were originally proposed by the Hong Kong Mass Transport Study.
In 1972, the Hong Kong government authorised construction of the Initial System, a 20-kilometre system that roughly translates to the Kwun Tong Line of today. Negotiations with four major construction consortia started in 1973. The government's intention was to tender the entire project, based on the British design, as a single tender at a fixed price. A consortium from Japan signed an agreement to construct the system in early 1974, but in December of the same year, it pulled out of the agreement for reasons stemming from fears of the Arab oil crisis.
Several weeks later, in early 1975, a government agency known as the Mass Transport Provisional Authority was established to take charge of the project. It announced that the Initial System would be reduced to 15.6–kilometres, and renamed it the Modified Initial System. Plans for a single contract were abandoned in favour of 25 engineering contracts and 10 electrical and mechanical contracts. In addition, the government-owned Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway Corporation (MTRC) was established to replace the Mass Transport Provisional Authority.
Construction of the Modified Initial System (now part of Kwun Tong Line and Tsuen Wan Line) commenced in November 1975. The northern section was completed on 1979-09-30 and opened on 1979-10-01; on this route, trains ran from Shek Kip Mei to Kwun Tong. The route from Tsim Sha Tsui to Shek Kip Mei was opened in December of the same year. The early stations were designed under the supervision of the Chief Architect of MTR, Roland Paoletti.
In 1980, the first harbour crossing was made by an MTR train as the Kwun Tong Line was extended even further to Chater station, now known as Central station. To deal with increasing patronage, trains were extended to six cars.
When service of this line started, the section of the Kwun Tong Line from Chater to Argyle, the present-day Mong Kok station, was transferred to the Tsuen Wan Line. Thus, Waterloo became the terminus of the Kwun Tong Line, and both Argyle and Prince Edward stations became interchange stations. This change was made because system planners expected the traffic of the Tsuen Wan Line to exceed that of the Kwun Tong Line. This forecast proved to be accurate, necessitating a bypass from the northwestern New Territories to Hong Kong Island. The Tung Chung Line was therefore launched in 1998 with an interchange station at Lai King for that purpose.
Although land acquisitions were made for a station at Tsuen Wan West, the station was never built. This is not to be confused with Tsuen Wan West Station on West Rail Line, which lies on the newly reclaimed area near the former ferry pier.
Since the line's opening in 1982, the Tsuen Wan Line is the only line whose alignment has virtually remained the same for the past 23 years. For example, the Kwun Tong Line's alignment has changed twice since its opening — the taking over of Tsuen Wan Line from Mong Kok to Central, and the taking over of Eastern Harbour Crossing section by the Tseung Kwan O Line.
Government approvals were granted for construction of the Island Line in December, 1980. Construction commenced in October, 1981. On 1985-05-31 the Island Line was opened with service between Admiralty and Chai Wan stations. Both Admiralty and Central stations became interchange stations with the Tsuen Wan Line. Furthermore, each train was extended to eight cars. On 1986-05-23, the Island Line was extended to Sheung Wan. Construction for its station was delayed for one year as government offices which sat on top of the station had to be moved to a new location before construction could start.
In 1984, the government approved the construction of the Eastern Harbour Crossing, a tunnel to be used by cars and MTR trains. The Kwun Tong Line was extended across the harbour on 1989-08-05 to Quarry Bay, which became an interchange station for the Kwun Tong Line and the Island Line. An intermediate station, Lam Tin, started operations on 1989-10-01.
The decision was made in October 1989 to construct a new international airport at Chek Lap Kok on Lantau Island to replace the overcrowded Kai Tak International Airport. The government invited the MTRC to build a train line, then known as the Lantau Airport Railway, to the airport. Construction started in November 1994, after the Chinese and British governments settled their financial and land disagreements.
The new line was included in the financing plans of the new Hong Kong International Airport as the airport was not considered viable without direct public transport links. Construction costs were also shared by the MTRC which was granted many large-scale developments in the construction plans for the new stations.
The Lantau Airport Railway turned into two MTR lines, the Tung Chung Line and the Airport Express. The Tung Chung Line was officially opened on 1998-06-21 by Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa, and service commenced the next day. The Airport Express opened for service on 1998-07-06 along with the new Hong Kong International Airport.
The Airport Express line is the second most popular means of transport to the Hong Kong International Airport after buses. In 2006, 23% of the commuters took the Airport Express to and from the airport.
Construction of the Tseung Kwan O Line was approved on 1998-08-18 to serve new housing developments. Construction began on 1999-04-24 and the line officially opened in 2002, taking over the train tracks running through the Eastern Harbour Tunnel from the Kwun Tong Line, running from Po Lam to North Point. When the line was opened, the Kwun Tong Line was diverted to Tiu Keng Leng on the new line. Construction costs were partly covered by the Hong Kong Government and private developers which linked construction of the Tseung Kwan O Line to new real estate and commercial developments. Previously under-developed areas were opened up for development with more transport options.
The Disneyland Resort Line, previously known as Penny's Bay Rail Link, provides service to the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort which was opened on 2005-09-12. Service to Sunny Bay station on the Tung Chung Line started service in 2005. The new line and Disneyland Resort station opened for service on August 1st of that year. It is a 3.5–kilometre single-track railway that runs between Sunny Bay station and Disneyland Resort station; The Disneyland Resort station itself is designed to blend in with the Hong Kong Disneyland to create a resort ambience. The line currently operates fully-automated, driver-less trains running every four to ten minutes, the carriages of which were converted from the existing M-Train rolling stock to suit the recreational and adventurous nature of the 3.5 minute journey.
On 2000-10-05 the operator of the MTR network, MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL), became Hong Kong's first privatised rail and metro company, marking the beginning of the Hong Kong government's planned initiative to wind down its interests in various public utilities. Prior to its listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, the Mass Transit Railway Corporation (MTRC) was wholly owned by the Hong Kong Government. The offering involved the sale of around one billion shares, and the company now has the largest shareholder base of any company listed in Hong Kong. In June 2001, MTRCL was transferred to the Hang Seng Index.
MTRCL has always been reliant on developing properties next to railway stations for its profits to complement its already profitable rail lines. Many recently built stations are incorporated into large housing estates or shopping complexes. Examples can be seen at Tsing Yi station, which is built next to the Maritime Square shopping centre, and directly underneath the Tierra Verde housing estate.
On 2006-04-11, MTRCL signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding with the Hong Kong Government, the owner of KCRC, to merge the operation of the two railway networks of Hong Kong. The merger proposal has been approved by the minority shareholders of the Corporation in an Extraordinary General Meeting held on 9 October 2007, allowing MTRCL to take over the operation of the KCR network and combine the fare system of the two networks on 2 December 2007.
On 2008-09-28, fare zones of Urban Lines, East Rail Line and Ma On Shan Line, and West Rail Line were merged. A single single-journey ticket is sufficient to travel in these networks, except when transferring at Tsim Sha Tsui-East Tsim Sha Tsui Stations, where two single-journey tickets are required. Also, student discounts using Octopus Card were implemented on that day.
|Line||Opening Year||Terminus||Stations||Running time (mins)||Depot|
|1910||East Tsim Sha Tsui|| Lo Wu /|
Lok Ma Chau
|15||44||Ho Tung Lau|
|1979||Yau Ma Tei||Tiu Keng Leng||15||27||Kowloon Bay|
|1982||Central||Tsuen Wan||16||30||Tsuen Wan|
|1985||Sheung Wan||Chai Wan||14||25||Heng Fa Chuen|
|(11 routes)||1988||--||--||68||Varies||Tuen Mun|
|1998||Hong Kong||Tung Chung||8||28||Siu Ho Wan|
|1998||Hong Kong||AsiaWorld-Expo||5||28||Siu Ho Wan|
|2002||North Point||Po Lam||7||15||Tseung Kwan O South|
|2003||Nam Cheong||Tuen Mun||9||30||Pat Heung|
|2004||Wu Kai Sha||Tai Wai||9||16||Tai Wai|
|2005||Sunny Bay||Disneyland Resort||2||4||Siu Ho Wan|
As compared to other metro systems in the world such as those found in Eastern Europe, architecture of MTR stations is less artistic, instead focusing on structural practicability. With the high level of daily passenger traffic, facilities of the MTR stations are built with durability and accessibility in mind. After extensive retrofitting, the MTR system has become, in general, disabled-friendly — the trains have dedicated wheelchair space, the stations have special floor tiles to guide the blind safely on the platforms, and there are extra wide entry and exit gates for wheelchairs as well.
Free magazines and newspapers are distributed across MTR stations. Recruit was the first free magazine which was solely distributed in MTR stations (before railway merger) since July 1992, but the contract between the magazine and MTR was terminated in July 2002. Another recruitment magazine Jiu Jik (招職), published by South China Morning Post, replaced Recruit as the only free recruitment magazine distributed in MTR stations on every Tuesdays and Fridays. The Metropolis Daily (都市日報), published by Metro International, is the first free newspaper distributed free in MTR stations from Monday to Friday (except public holidays); and in 2005, there is another weekend newspaper Express Post (快線周報), distributed every Saturday except public holidays. The Metropop (都市流行), a weekly magazine featuring cultural affairs and city trends also published by Metro International, started its distribution in MTR stations every Thursdays since 2006-04-27, few months after the termination of Hui Kai Guide (去街 Guide) in 2006. MTR Stations on ex-KCR lines feature 2 free newspapers namely am730 and Headline Daily. Both newspapers are also in Chinese. MTR promotes reading of these newspapers by adding special coupons and promotion offers inside the newspapers, e.g. free trip to Lok Ma Chau or a free keylink.
On East Rail Line, Ma On Shan Line and West Rail Line, Newsline Express is available.
Several future projects on the MTR have been put forward by MTRCL to the Hong Kong Government, some already under construction. The network was significantly expanded after the merger of MTRCL with the government-owned KCRC. A non-binding Memorandum of Understanding was signed on 2006-04-11 to grant MTRCL operation of the existing KCR network with a service concession of 50 years. The new Sha Tin to Central Link that was originally awarded to KCRC would also be operated by MTRCL.
Provisions are made to upgrade the existing infrastructure of the MTR. New subway links to the stations are also being made for better access, and an extension for the Tseung Kwan O Line to create a branch line to LOHAS Park Station has been gazetted. A further proposal to extend the existing Kwun Tong Line to Whampoa Garden, together in a tie-up with the Sha Tin to Central Link expansion have been made in April 2006. In March 2008, the MTR Corporation welcomes the Government’s decision for the Corporation to proceed with further planning and design for the Kwun Tong Line Extension and the Shatin to Central Link. The construction of the Kwun Tong Line Extension and the section from Shatin to Hung Hom is expected to complete in 2015, the section from Hung Hom to Central is expected to complete in 2019.
The West Island Line and South Island Line, first put forward to the government by MTRCL on 2003-01-21, only received approval on 2005-06-30 after its heavily-modified fourth proposal. This consisted of West Island Line extending the Island Line to Kennedy Town, South Island Line (East section) from Admiralty to Ap Lei Chau and South Island Line (West section) that connects the previous two lines. The construction of West Island Line and the South Island Line (East section) is expected to complete in 2013 and 2015 respectively.
Two lines are being built or proposed to connect the West Rail Line and the East Rail Line. The 4.5 km Kowloon Southern Link will soon connect the West Rail Line Nam Cheong Station with the East Rail Line East Tsim Sha Tsui Station with an intermediate stop at West Kowloon Station. The Northern Link will be a new line which connects West Rail Line with the Lok Ma Chau Spur Line of East Rail Line.
In addition, three EMU models (of East Rail/West Rail, Ma On Shan Rail and Tung Chung/Airport Express Lines) have a slightly bullet train head in the front to avoid drag. Therefore, it uses less energy to speed up. Trains with the bullet train head have mostly have a greater acceleration speed compared with other MTR EMUs. For example, the K-Stock has an acceleration rate of 4.72 km/h/s (1.3 m/s2) while an older EMU, the M-Stock only has an acceleration rate of 3.6 km/h/s (1.0 m/s2).
Known as M-Trains, the oldest model of MTR since its operation, M-Trains can be divided into different "Stocks". The M-Stock (or CM-Stock") of M-Train are the oldest trains on the MTR, built originally by Metro Cammell (now Alstom) and refurbished by United Goninan. The M-Train uses sliding doors, unlike K-Stocks and A-Stocks which use plug-doors. They are in service on Kwun Tong Line, Tsuen Wan Line, Island Line and Tseung Kwan O Line.
The Disneyland Resort Line uses driverless M-Train with their appearance overhauled to suit the atmosphere and theme of the line. Windows on each carriage and the handrails inside are made into the shape of Mickey Mouse's head, and there are bronze-made Disney characters decorating the interior of the carriages.
Both East Rail Line and West Rail Line use the SP1900 while Ma On Shan Line uses SP1950, a shorter model of the SP1900. The older Metro Cammell EMU are also used on East Rail Line. The electrification system used on these lines is 25 kV AC, 50 Hz, as opposed to the 1.5–kV DC used on the urban lines. Should the need arise in the future, dual-voltage trains such as those utilized on Oresund Bridge shall be required.
These two models of rolling stock are from the former KCRC network (KCR East Rail, West Rail and Ma On Shan Rail). They did not receive major changes after the merger of 2 companies except for the updated route map, the exterior company logo and such. The capability of these EMU fleet is similar to those on the urban network.
In addition, the Light Rail will be modernized as part of a 20th Anniversary Activity according to the MTR. Trains will include better disabled facilities as well as a totally new interior. The MTR will refurbish 69 older trains and buy 22 new ones. The whole project is expected to be completed in 2011.
Similar to some other metro systems in the world, the fare payable by a passenger depends on the approximate distance travelled. However, taking any particular station as the origin, the other stations fall into fare "zones" depending on the distance from the origin. The fare to all stations in a "zone" is the same and increases with distance, especially if the journey involves a harbour crossing. Adult fares range from HK$3.00 to $47.50. Concessionary fares are usually half the adult fare, and range from HK$1.40 to $23.80. Student fares are the same as child and elderly fare on the urban lines, but are the same as the Adult fares for journeys to or from Lo Wu or Lok Ma Chau Station, and range from HK$1.40 to $39.40. Fares for the Airport Express Line are significantly higher. Services to border stations (Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau) are also more expensive than ordinary fares.
MTR does not provide concessionary fares for the disabled. Legislators such as Social welfare constituency legislator Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung and those from Hong Kong Association for Democracy & People's Livelihood have for years demanded that such concessions be put in place.
Single journey tickets and octopus card reloads can be purchased at vending machines while tourist passes, octopus cards and other special tickets must be purchased at the ticket counter. Credit cards are only accepted to purchase Airport Express tickets.
The Octopus card is a rechargeable contactless smart card used in an electronic payment system in Hong Kong developed by Australian-based company ERG Group. It was launched in September 1997 for use on the MTR (and KCR, now operated by MTR) and now is the most widely used electronic cash system for transactions in Hong Kong as many retailers (including McDonalds Hong Kong) are fitted with readers. The technology used was Sony's Felica line of smartcard.
The Octopus card uses radio frequency identification (RFID) technology so that users need only hold the card in front of the reader. Physical contact is not required, and the card need not even be taken out because the reader can penetrate through material. Many people leave their card inside their handbags or briefcase and simply pass their bag over the reader. This fare collection system has been so popular that many major cities such as Singapore, London and Chicago have adopted the idea, launching their own version of smart cards, respectively named EZ-link, Oyster card, and EasyCard.
Except for the Airport Express, MTR fares are slightly lower when using an Octopus card compared to using single journey tickets. For example, the cost of the 3-minute journey from Admiralty to Tsim Sha Tsui across the Victoria Harbour is (as of 2005) HK$7.7 using the Octopus card, compared with HK$8.5 for a single-journey ticket.
Two types of tourist passes are available: one allows unlimited rides on the urban lines for a single day (at HK$50), one allows unlimited rides on the East Rail Line, West Rail Line, Feeder Buses and Light Rail ($30), while the other allows three days of unlimited rides on the urban lines, with a stored value of HK$20, refundable deposit of HK$50 and choice of either a single (HK$220) or return (HK$300) trip on the Airport Express.
Tourists are required to produce proof of tourist status, (e.g. passports or, in the case of Mainland travellers, entry permits) when purchasing the pass, and whenever requested by a ticket inspector during spot-checks. But these checks are rarely done and tourists passes are sold without question to persons who are obviously tourists.
Fares for the Airport Express are substantially different from main line fares. Apart from single tickets, same-day return tickets (same price as a single), and one-month return tickets are also available.
A one-day pass can be used to unlimited travel to/from Hong Kong Disneyland within the same day, and costs HK$50. This pass can be purchased from any MTR Customer Service Centres or Airport Express Customer Service Centres.
Various campaigns and activities are taken to help ensure that the MTR is a safe system to travel on. Poster campaigns displaying information on topics such as escalator safety are a common sight in all MTR stations, and announcements are made regularly as safety reminders to travelling passengers. Bylaws were also introduced to deter potentially dangerous actions on the MTR, such as the ban on flammable goods on the MTR and rushing into trains when the doors are closing. Penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment have been imposed for such offences. Metallic balloons are also banned due to previous incidents on KCR and on MTR's Island Line where a metallic balloon interfered with the operation of the overhead power lines. Also, smoking, eating and drinking in subway trains and platforms are prohibited.
Police officers patrol the trains and stations, and police posts are available at some stations. The Hong Kong Police Force has a Railway District responsible for the MTR. Closed-circuit television cameras are installed in stations.
The entire Tung Chung Line and Airport Express, as well those stations added by the Tseung Kwan O Line, has platform screen doors (PSDs), ordered from Swiss glass door manufacturer Kaba Gilgen AG, installed upon construction. So do the entire West Rail Line and the East Tsim Sha Tsui Station, inherited from KCR. These doors make platforms safer by preventing people from falling onto the rails, even though MTRCL did not heavily promote it directly. However, the primary motivation was to separate the stations from the tunnels, hence allowing substantial energy savings on station air-conditioning and tunnel ventilation. Automatic platform gates (APGs) have also been installed at the Sunny Bay and Disneyland Resort stations. Their heights are half of the PSDs and only prevent people from falling onto the rails.
In June 2000, MTRCL proceeded with its plans to retrofit 2,960 pairs of platform screen doors at all 30 underground stations on the Kwun Tong Line, Tsuen Wan Line, and Island Line in a six year programme. The programme made MTR the world's first railway to undertake the retrofitting of PSDs on a passenger-carrying system already in operation. A prototype design was first introduced at Choi Hung station in the 3rd quarter of 2001. The whole installation scheme was completed in October 2005. (The original completion year was 2006.) MTRCL said that part of the cost had to be assumed by passengers.HK$0.10 per passenger trip was levied on Octopus card users to help fund the HK$2 billion retrofit programme.
With the objective "not only bring MTR passengers more time for life, but also more time for art", the "Art in MTR" Initiative has been a success since its reception in 1998, where the Airport Express Artwork Programme was the pioneer project. Thereafter, live performances, art exhibitions, display of artwork by established and emerging artists, students and young children have been brought into the MTR stations. MTRCL have even made art part of the station architecture when building new stations or renovating existing ones. Artworks are exhibited in different forms on the network, including "arttube", open art gallery, community art galleries, roving art, living art, and art in station architecture.
By incorporating elements of art into the railway network, the travelling environment for the passengers is not only enhanced, but also makes their journeys even more pleasant and enjoyable. Moreover, with MTR stations being an integral part of the neighbourhood, the programme also provides opportunities to promote Hong Kong's community art, encourage art appreciation among the public and give residents a feeling of home at the stations.