The MTR Light Rail, also known Light Rail Transit (LRT), used to be one of the four systems of the KCR network in Hong Kong. It serves the northwestern New Territories, within and between Tuen Mun District and Yuen Long District.
By that time, Kowloon Motor Bus (KMB) had developed its own network in Tuen Mun and Yuen Long, and there were about 10 routes serving within the district internally, most of them were profitable. However, the government introduced the concept of the "Light Rail Service Area" in both districts, forcing the KMB to withdraw all internal bus services in favour of the Light Rail. It also forced the KMB to impose boarding and alighting restrictions for external routes. It was decided that services between town centres and settlements would be provided solely by the Light Rail, while feeder buses operated by the KCRC would connect remote sites to the network, replacing KMB's equivalent services where applicable.
The system was completed and fully operational on 18 September 1988. It consisted of two big and three small loops serving most of the public housing estates in northern Tuen Mun. Three branches: one to On Ting Estate in the southeast, one to the Tuen Mun Ferry Pier in the southwest, and another northern branch all the way into the town of Yuen Long along Castle Peak Road. It was then known as Light Rail Transit, or LRT, and is also called as the North-west Railway according to the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation Ordinance
The system was divided into five fare zones, making it the only public transportation system in Hong Kong with such zoning. The feeder buses have fares independent of these zones, but provide discounts when passengers interchange between these buses and Light Rail. 70 single-deck tram units were manufactured in Melbourne and Brisbane, Australia by Comeng, and shipped to Hong Kong for the seven tram routes in the system. Three of the routes were to Yuen Long and the others were confined to Tuen Mun.
The system's first extension came for the southern and eastern parts of Tuen Mun. The eastern extension branches off the main line south of Siu Hong station and crosses the river that runs through Tuen Mun immediately with a flyover. The line then runs along Castle Peak Road to a road north of the town centre, where it climbs to another flyover and rejoins the main route. The northern end of this extension is still the only non-triangular junction in the entire system.
The southern extension mainly consists of a route linking On Ting and Ferry Pier, on the newly reclaimed land near the river mouth of Tuen Mun River, known as "Mouse Island" by local people. A short spur line is also built from the extension to another terminus at Sam Shing Estate, located near Castle Peak Bay. 3 Light Rail routes were diverted (route 505 was extended to Sam Shing), and 1 feeder bus route (route 559) cancelled as a result of these changes.
Tin Shui Wai was originally an area with numerous fish ponds, but was developed as a residential town in the early 1990s. With the increase of internal commuter traffic demand, the Light Rail built a spur line north of Hung Shui Kiu station that opened in 1993, with four stations serving the initial housing areas of the town. The area was further developed in the next few years, and the spur line was extended by two stations: Chestwood and "Tin Shui Wai" in 1995 (Tin Shui Wai was renamed as Tin Wing after the opening of West Rail). 2 Light Rail routes were established, one to Tuen Mun (route 720) and one to Yuen Long(721).
The rolling stock of Light Rail consists of three different types of LRVs that are divided into three phases. All LRVs are 20.2 m. long and have 3 sliding doors fitted the left side (when facing the running direction from inside). This means that island platforms cannot be utilized at all in the LRT system.
Phase one LRVs were built by Comeng and put in service in 1988. They are numbered 1001-1070 and accommodate 43 sitting passengers and 161 standees. Phase two LRVs were built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries and entered service in 1992. They are numbered 1071-1090/1201-1210 and accommodate 26 sitting and 185 standees. Cars 1071-1090 are cab cars while 1201-1210 are cabless trailers. Phase three LRVs were built by A. Goninan and entered service in 1997. They are numbered 1091-1110 and accommodate 26 seating and 212 standees. Phase one LRVs have two wheelchair positions while both Phase two and Phase three LRVs have three positions.
Traction systems for both Phase one and two LRVs consist of GTO thyristor chopper and DC traction motors, supplied by AEG, while drives for the Phase three LRVs consist of IGBT VVVF Inverters and AC traction motors provided by Mitsubishi. The maximum speed for all LRVs is 80km/h, although the rarely reach that speed because of the many grade crossings between stations and the close proximity between stations in Tuen Mun, Yuen Long, and Tin Shui Wai.
Physically, from the outside, it is difficult differentiate between the different types of LRVs. There are, however, distinct features that one can use to tell them apart; Phase three LRVs still retain their original electronic displays (green) while all other LRVs have had theirs replaced by new displays (orange).
There are currently nine routes serving the Light Rail system:
*761P operates special services between Yuen Long and Tin Wing (via Wetland Park) at 30-minute intervals from 10:00 to 15:00 daily.
After the opening of West Rail, the demand for Light Rail services between Siu Hong and Yuen Long decreased. Therefore, half of 614 and 615 services were changed to short-distance services operating between Siu Hong and Ferry Pier, numbered and respectively.
The following route runs only during peak hours:
Octopus card fares are calculated based on the minimum number of stations travelled (from origin to destination stations), rather than the number of fare zones travelled through. All stations have Octopus card entry and exit processors at the entrances to and exits from platforms. Passengers may enter the system after placing their Octopus card on the reader of an orange-coloured 'Entry Processor' reader. This action is known as 'validation'. At this point, HK$5.80 is deducted from the Octopus card. When the passenger completes their journey, they place their card on a dark-green coloured 'Exit Processor'. At this time, the difference between the HK$5.80 initially deducted, and the value of the fare travelled is refunded to the card. This design ensures that passengers re-validate their cards upon exit, otherwise they must pay the maximum fare of HK$5.80. A third type of processor exists at most platforms. Light-blue in colour, it is an 'Enquiry Processor', and allows passengers to check the balance on their card, along with the 10 most recent Octopus transactions, and, in the case of Personalised Octopus Cards, the number of Light Rail credits accumulated.
Passengers using Personalised Octopus Cards are able to participate in the Light Rail Bonus Scheme. Adults who spend HK$30 in 6 consecutive days, or children who spend HK$15 over the same period get an automatic credit of HK$3 and HK$1.5 respectively. Octopus card holders with student identity stored in the card can enjoy a rebate of HK$3.4 when he spend HK$12 in 4 consecutive days.