2020 Milestone for MTR East Rail Line Extension

The Sha Tin to Central Link expansion of the MTR rapid transit system currently under construction in Hong Kong is due to reach a milestone in mid-2020.

The new signalling system of the East Rail Line (phase 2 of the Sha Tin to Central Link) and the new nine-car trains will soon become operational, thus extending the East Rail Line across Victoria Harbour to Admiralty Station.

The new signalling system on the East Rail Line has undergone rigorous, comprehensive system testing and safety verification.

New Hyundai Rotem R-Train for MTR East Rail Line
New Hyundai Rotem R-Train for MTR East Rail Line

The new rolling stock on the East Rail Line will be put into service to meet the operational needs of the new railway section of Hong Kong Island under its space constraints. At the moment there are 12-car trains running on the East Rail Line. These will be replaced by the new 9-car trains. This process will be completed in stages over the coming 18 months.

The carriages of the new 9-car trains are slightly wider than those of the existing trains. The interior will also deliver an improved passenger experience as it feels more spacious and comfortable. The information displays will show passengers the live location of their train and provide details about connecting services. The first new 9-car train will enter service on the East Rail Line in mid-2020.

Zhou Suhong, General Manager of the Engineering Department of the MTR Corporation, said:

“The first phase, the Tuen Ma Line, opened to traffic on February 14, 2020, which is an important milestone for the Sha Tin to Central Link Project. As we move towards 2021 the Tuen Ma Line will be opened to traffic throughout the year and the goal of opening the Hung Hom to Admiralty Section (that is, the East Rail Line that will extend across the sea) in the first quarter of 2022 will advance. The completion of the Sha Tin to Central Link project will bring greater convenience to the public. We have completed the cross-sea railway tunnel project of the East Rail Line, which will extend across the sea. At this stage, we will begin to deal with the integration of new and existing roads with complex railway systems.
Through the newly constructed fourth cross-harbour railway tunnel, the 'Hung Hom to Admiralty Section' will see the East Rail Line cross Victoria Harbour from Hung Hom to Admiralty Station via the Convention and Exhibition Station in Wan Chai North. In the future, East Rail Line passengers can travel directly between the Northeast New Territories and Hong Kong Island to enjoy more direct and convenient services.”

The rolling stock contract for the new 9-car trains went to Hyundai Rotem in 2012 and the first delivery took place in 2015. The EMUs are known as ‘R-Trains’. A total of 37 units were ordered.

Huang Kunwei, Head of Vehicle Operations of MTR Corporation, said:

“In the future, the new nine-car train will gradually replace the current twelve-car train. During the operation of the mixed fleet, passengers will see both the nine-car and twelve-car trains on the East Rail Line. We will take comprehensive measures, including through conspicuous signs, clear station announcements and additional manpower, to help passengers adapt to the new arrangements. [...]

“As with all train replacements and large-scale signalling system upgrade projects, the new signalling system and new trains have passed rigorous tests. If there are any unforeseen break-in problems in the initial stage of service, the company has formulated contingency measures to deal with possible delays in railway services. Our engineering staff and contractors will continue to work closely together in a professional manner to ensure that the possible impact on customers and train services is minimised. We will deal with them fully and quickly and provide customers with timely information and assistance.”

In addition to operating a mixed fleet, another key task – the new rail connection project – will be carried out on the road between Mong Kok East Station and Hung Hom Station. The relevant preparatory work has already started, while the project proper is expected to begin officially in Q3 of 2020.

The full phase 1 of the Sha Tin to Central Link extension, i.e. the Tuen Ma Line, which opened partially in February, will open in full (all the way to Hung Hom) in 2021. The goal of opening the Hung Hom to Admiralty section in Q1 of 2022 remains a challenging one but the engineering team is still pursuing that date.

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