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Bangkok railway engineering education agreement signed
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Bangkok monorail lines approved
Contactless ticketing to be tested in Singapore
While London awaits the final testing and final opening of its Elizabeth (née Crossrail) line, there is another line, albeit shorter, which has many similarities. Hong Kong is by some measures more dense than London, and has been investing intensely in new Metro lines. Our new Far East correspondent looks at the integration of a new line at Hong Kong’s busiest station, Admiralty.
Like Tokyo, Hong Kong originally had two metro agencies. Unlike Tokyo however, Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway Corporation (MTR) and Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation (KCR) merged in 2007, which gave a combined network of 211.6 kilometres (131.5 miles) and 84 stations. This is now operated as a single 10-line rapid transit network which serves the three main areas of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region – Hong Kong Island, Kowloon Peninsula, and the New Territories. Amazingly, while the KCR has been operating locomotive hauled passenger services since 1910, the first proper metro line in Hong Kong only opened in 1979.
The southern extension of the East Rail Line’s Shatin to Central link project will be the city’s latest Metro segment to open. As a strategic metro project, It will connect the three main areas of Hong Kong together, plus interchanging with several existing MTR lines. As well as serving areas in East Kowloon that currently do not have any MTR service. Furthermore, the extended line will also provide residents of Hong Kong Island to directly reach the Chinese border and on to Shenzhen. (High speed services to other Chinese mainland locations are also offered at West Kowloon).
current east Rail line is light blue
Kowloon (indicated in grey in the above map at centre right) is generally less dense than northern Hong Kong Island (at bottom), but has some of the densest areas of the Region (MongKok and Kwun Tong). New Territories (north-west) is suburban, relatively speaking, but not in the North American or European sense. Admiralty station is at the confluence of the red, blue, and olive lines on Hong Kong Island.
Despite the initial sections of the Shatin to Central link, serving East Kowloon and completing the Tuen Ma Line, opening in June 2021, the final section of this Shatin to Central link to open is the much more anticipated cross-harbour connection of the East Rail Line. This will extend the East Rail Line from its current terminal at Hung Hom in Kowloon by diving under Victoria Harbour to serve two stops on Hong Kong island. It will have a new station at Exhibition Centre and then terminate at Admiralty. Once opened, the section will allow commuters to travel between the northern New Territories and Hong Kong Island without interchanging.
The Shatin to Central Link, so named for the two terminals of the line, has had a convoluted planning history. Planning for the line can be traced back several iterations of proposals for a line serving the eastern side of the Kowloon Peninsula that were never realized. The modern preliminary inception of the project appeared in the “Railway Development Strategy 2000”.
At the time, government was attempting to package the project as a standalone line to allow for both the unmerged MTR and KCR corporations to vie for the project. Hence the designation as a physical line despite the resulting operations being planned today as split between two different services (Tuen Ma and East Rail Lines). It was expected that once a corporation was selected, it would redesign the project to fit the context of its own network. Ultimately, with the looming KCR – MTR merger, a joint harmonized proposal was announced 2007, breaking the Shatin to Central Link into two parts:
Looking forward, the next opening and final section of the project is the southern extension of the East Rail Line to Admiralty, with a scheduled opening date proposed for June or July 2022. Admiralty will then be the first interchange station to host four rapid transit lines on the MTR network.
Construction at Admiralty station
I decided to look around Admiralty station and see what they look like in October 2021. To start, I step off a South Island Line train and head up to the concourse. On the right is the station map.
Admiralty Concourse mid-level. all photos Steve Chiu
The station map the layout of Admiralty Station as it is today:
Admiralty Station map
Admiralty Station is a six story underground structure consisting of:
The platforms for the Island and Tsuen Wan Lines have already been partially renovated and expanded in anticipation to interchange with the South Island and East Rail Lines.
The concourse level of the South Island Line, currently accessible to the public, is actually the future central concourse serving the East Rail Line platforms. The full East Rail Line level consists of a central concourse for passenger circulation with the actual East Rail Line platforms being smaller bores adjacent to the central concourse, a setup not unlike some London Crossrail Stations. These platforms and the concourse are at level L5 on the map below, with English explanatory text in red on these platforms:
East Rail line platforms noted in red on L5
Comparing Hong Kong & London station complexes
By way of comparison, take a look at some of the multi-level lines, platforms, and vertical passenger connections in our look at Bank Station Part 4 – Radical Changes. That article looks at the design work necessary to add the new Northern Line platform to that station complex. Which of course is now underway, eight years after that article was written.
It is interesting to see how Hong Kong’s Admiralty station’s lines’ platforms are stacked upon one another and going deeper, but not as spread out as London’s Bank/Monument complex. For Hong Kong, land is at even greater premium than in London.
Back to Admiralty station
Stepping back we see the end of the concourse to a passageway connecting to transfer escalators directly up to the Island and Tsuen Wan Lines. On the left is the escalators from the transfer concourse:
Admiralty mid-level concourse with escalators
Turning around and looking at the left and right of the concourse there are a series of connecting passageways to each of the platform bores of the East Rail Line.
The left side is sealed off…
Walled Off East Rail Line platform on L5
…and the right side has tarps…
Tarped Off East Rail Line platform
…which disappeared a few days later.
Closed Off East Rail Line platform
This revealed part of the platform bores. Behind the white hoarding are the platform screen doors for the East Rail line.
East Rail walled off platform lengthwise
The East Rail Line platforms are 9 cars long (about 220m), but as can be seen in the background of the above image, the rest of the platform is boarded up. There is only access to about 100m of platform. The East Rail Line currently (at time of writing) runs a mix of 9 and 12 car (220m and 280m) trains. It will transition fully to 9 car trains by the time the East Rail Line extension opens, as the platforms are only long enough for 9 car trains.
The transition from 12 to 9 cars is somewhat controversial insome local circles due to perceived loss of capacity for the whole line, just to accommodate the extension to Hong Kong Island. MTR has argued that the improved signaling system being implemented on the East Rail Line will compensatefor the shorter trains.
Along with the less sluggish acceleration of the new R-Stock by Hyundai Rotem, relative to the line’s existing 1980s era Metro Cammell EMUs, will allow for more frequent service to make up for the loss of capacity. Additionally, the R-stock trains are a good 10cm wider than the older trains to take advantage of the more generous loading gauge on the East Rail Line, leading to more capacity per car. Lastly, the maximum passenger demand section at the Beacon Hill Tunnel was relieved by the opening of the Lion Rock Tunnel for the Tuen Ma Line. Time will tell if this approach was correct.
However, leaked station drawings showed that the platforms at Exhibition Station, to be looked at a bit later, are actually long enough for 10 car trains. If this is true, then it would not be unreasonable to expect that the Admiralty Station platforms to also take 10 car trains. Despite all this speculation the MTR, for the record, has come out to categorically deny that the platforms allow for 10 car trains. *Railfan drama intensifies*
East Rail walled off platform lengthwise – further out
Heading back to the central concourse I approach the interchange passageway to the Island and Tsuen Wan Lines. I am greeted by more tarps and hoarding which are hiding more passageways to the rest of the East Rail platform and the extended central concourse that will run under the Island and Tsuen Wan Line structures.
East Rail tarped off concourse with floor line direxions
Up Up andAway!!!! A direct escalator to the Island the Tsuen Wan Lines – but what’s this on my left?:
East Rail tarped off long escalator
The tarps on the left hide the fact that the escalator banks run through an as yet unopened multi-level Atrium, the soon to be crown jewel of the station. The black hoarding on each level is preventing passengers from seeing the Island and Tsuen Wan Line platforms. I suspect, when this opens, they will be able to see trains pulling in on both levels if they look across the Atrium as they ascend on this escalator.
I have taken a video with a partial view of the Atrium.
The Atrium starts from the extended central concourse of the East Rail Line platforms and rises up to Exit E between the stacked cross platform interchange of the Island and Tsuen Wan Lines. You can see how the latter’s platforms as well as the station concourse wrap around it. It out-Crossrails Crossrail in it’s vertical ambition and scale.
ATRIUM view corridor in orange
On the Island and Tsuen Wan Line platforms (the other side of the black hoarding) the Atrium is obscured by this unassuming hoarding, denying the public of her beauty. Note the curved structure of the hoarding as it runs along what would be the railings for the Atrium where you can look down and across.
It appears that Hong Kong has been more influenced by Singapore MRT’s Dhoby Ghaut three line interchange station, than the Jubilee Line Extension or Crossrail:
Dhoby Ghaut station. Singapore MRT
Admiralty Line 2’s wide platform and floor passenger markings:
Admiralty Line 2 wide platform & floor markings
Popping out of the station to the podium park (Harcourt Garden) on top of the new unfinished Exit E flagship portal which will open into the Atrium. Additionally, the new footbridges of the vast Central Elevated Walkway system connecting to Harcourt Garden can be seen behind the portal:
Admiralty station Exit E under construction
Next stop, Exhibition Station
The general public is not yet allowed to enter brand new Exhibition Station due to ongoing construction. Upon opening, the station will have a side stacked platform configuration as provision for cross platform interchange with the proposed North Island Line. This will serve as a relief line to the central section of the Island Line. Most of the station exits will directly connect to the Wan Chai Elevated Walkway network:
Admiralty station construction & Wan Chai Elevated Walkway
So there it is, the final piece of the Shatin to Central Link. This project over the course of its implementation has had numerous controversies from cost overruns to accusations of shoddy work. Regardless, it’s still very exciting as opening of this project is within sight. The connectivity and core capacity the project provides to the MTR and Hong Kong in general is massive.
This is the first report from our new Far East correspondent Steve Chiu. Having worked as an urban railway engineer in Toronto for over a year and transportation planner for five years, he is now studying at the University of Hong Kong on his Masters of Transport Policy and Planning degree.
The post A Crossrail worthy interchange – Hong Kong’s Shatin to Central Extension appeared first on London Reconnections.
This article first appeared on www.londonreconnections.com
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