West Rail Line
West Rail Line
A West Rail Line train arriving at Kam Sheung Road Station
|Locale||Districts: Yau Tsim Mong, Sham Shui Po, Tsuen Wan, Yuen Long, Tuen Mun|
|Ridership||333,000 weekday entries (2011); 360,000 (2011) p.44|
|Opening||20 December 2003|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in)|
|Electrification||25 kV AC, 50 Hz|
The West Rail Line (Chinese: 西鐵綫) is one of the MTR lines in Hong Kong, indicated by the colour dark magenta. It was formerly known as the KCR West Rail (九廣西鐵). The line connects Hung Hom Station in Yau Tsim Mong District and Tuen Mun Station in Tuen Mun, 35.4 km away, in 37 minutes.
Currently the West Rail Line only provides a local service at three-minute peak headway, resembling a metro more than a commuter railway. However the line was built to commuter railway standard, anticipating freight  and intercity services to Mainland China which were cancelled and superseded by the XRL respectively.
The line was originally built and operated by the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation (KCRC) prior to its merger with the MTR Corporation (MTRC), which took over the line on 2 December 2007 under a 50-year lease.
- 1 History
- 2 Route
- 3 Capacity and ridership
- 4 Fare system
- 5 Stations
- 6 Major incidents
- 7 Future development
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
A railway to the northwestern New Territories from the urban area in Kowloon was recommended as early as 1978 in a Tuen Mun Transport Study by Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick & Partner; by the early 1990s, the surge of commuter towns in Yuen Long and Tuen Mun had frequently brought road networks to a standstill, as urban populations spilled over to the bedroom communities while keeping their jobs in Kowloon and Hong Kong Island.
The 1994 Hong Kong Government Railway Development Strategy report envisaged a domestic passenger service between the North West New Territories (NWNT) and urban Kowloon, a cross-boundary passenger service for passengers travelling between Hong Kong and China, and container freight transport between ports in China and Hong Kong.
In January 1995, the Government invited the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation (KCRC) to submit a proposal for the design, construction and operation of the proposed Western Corridor Railway. KCRC submitted a full proposal in November 1995, as did MTRC, and twelve months later the Government adopted KCRC’s proposal. Tuen Mun residents clamoured for a direct connection (or failing that, a costly alternative coastal alignment), and the terminus was duly extended along Tuen Mun Nullah. Along with the Light Rail network, which was reconfigured as a feeder system, the railway was designed to serve 1.08 million residents in northwestern New Territories, 25% of whom lived within walking distance to stations compared to 80% along the Tseung Kwan O Line.p. 39
Originally conceived and carried through to the technical design phase as a 12-car system, parallelling the KCRC-operated East Rail Line, the West Rail project was re-evaluated by the KCRC in autumn of 1998; the present nine-car capacity (of which seven are run) is a result of improved ultimate headway from 120 seconds to 90.
The first phase of construction included a double-track commuter railway connecting Tuen Mun Station and Nam Cheong Station in newly reclaimed West Kowloon, at a cost of HK$46.4 billion in 2002 prices which was some 28% lower than the original estimate in 1998; later reports cite $51.7 billion in money of the day prices.
Originally, the KCRC expected the West Rail to have a daily ridership of about 340,000 upon commissioning and 500,000 by 2011. Actual figures hovered around 100,000 by April 2004, however, and rose to 170,000 by the end of the year following a series of discounts.
Some 30,000 flats were originally planned to be built along the route between 2006 and 2011, only to be put on hold when the property market crashed. The commuter line was built after the new towns in north-west New Territories, along with road-based transport networks, were nearing completion. Attempts to boost patronage were made by cutting longstanding bus services, which in turn necessitated government compensation to private bus operator Kowloon Motor Bus.
Improvement of signalling system
Frequent breakdowns (by local standards: 24 incidents in 2004 caused a delay of eight minutes or more)  led KCRC Chairman Michael Tien to announce that he would consider resigning if service performance failed to improve.
In August 2005, Michael Tien announced that 90% of breakdowns of the signalling system were due to failure of axle counters. With 45% of tracks elevated, the power lines are vulnerable to lightning strikes. The average distance between stations is 3 km, about the same as the RER, which meant that engineers took extra time to repair the signalling system. KCRC decided to spend HK$10 million to improve the signalling system.
Kowloon Southern Link
On 16 August 2009, the Kowloon Southern Link from Nam Cheong to East Tsim Sha Tsui Station was opened. The segment between East Tsim Sha Tsui Station and Hung Hom Station was transferred from the East Rail Line to the West Rail Line, and both services now terminate at Hung Hom.
West Rail is the only MTR line to have live CCTV monitoring on trains. In January 2011 there were calls for this facility to be extended to other lines, to help prevent indecent assaults on women.
The track is mostly at-grade in Kowloon and fully grade-separated throughout, running from southeast to northwest. It starts at Hung Hom Station at ground level, then goes underground through East Tsim Sha Tsui and Austin stations before emerging at ground level in Nam Cheong Station, sealed along and under the West Kowloon Highway through Lai Chi Kok Park into Mei Foo Station. Bored tunnels traverse densely populated Kwai Chung towards reclaimed Tsuen Wan West Station, where a 5.5 km bored rock tunnel leads trains through Tai Lam Country Park to Kam Sheung Road Station. The rest of the track was constructed on a continuous viaduct, running easterly through the new towns of Yuen Long and Tin Shui Wai, before taking a bend along the Tuen Mun nullah and terminating at Tuen Mun Station.
Capacity and ridership
The line is served by 28 seven-car MTR SP1900/1950 EMUs, of which 26 are run during the morning peak service with a 171-second headway: MTRC specifies capacities of 52 seated and 286 standing passengers per car. The EMUs, manufactured by Kinki Sharyo, deliver passengers at an average speed of 56 km/h and maximum 130 km/h. SelTrac, a fully automatic moving-block control system, is used throughout the line.
The line increased capacity between north-west New Territories and urban areas by about 80% and the Tuen Mun-Yuen Long Corridor by about 200%. Crowding on trains – or a lack thereof – has been a matter of heated public debate since its inauguration, as the government has no specific indicator for measuring crowdedness in train compartments as of 2014.
Japanese manufacturer Kinki Sharyo quoted car capacities (standing plus seating) upward of 430 for cab cars and 452 for the rest. KCRC's stress tests prior to the system's début specified a crush-load capacity at 2345, or 335 passengers in longitudinal seating for each of its seven cars, which corresponds to seven passengers per square metre  in line with MTRC standards. This contrasts with a worst-case allowable planning standard of 5 pax/sqm in the United States.
In industry journals, KCRC engineers and academics quoted ultimate limits upwards of 100,000 under 105-second headways, in nine-car configuration; however, both post-merger MTRC and government planning consultants report that the 'designed maximum one-hour carrying capacity' is actually 64,000, a figure described in Hansard footnotes as 'calculated in terms of the highest train frequency allowed with the existing signaling system'; in the consultants' report, 2011 average loading from Kam Sheung Road to Tsuen Wan West during the busiest morning peak hour stood at 65% (of the 'one-direction passenger capacity of the trains operated along the railway line', the exact figure of which was unspecified): consultants thus referred to "under-utilisation of train capacity"3.11. (The same consultant also forecast 50,000 pax/hr in 2031, given a peak service of 28 tph at 75,000 pax/hr capacity.)
In present operations, parliamentary briefs state that the Kowloon Southern Link raised one-hour carrying capacity from 39,900 to 46,900 pax/hr when headway was shortened from 3.5 minutes to 3.
2013 LegCo submissions from the MTRC confirmed that the capacity was at 46,900 pax/hr, with average train loading during morning peak hours on weekdays (from 6.30am to 9am) at around 70%. Extrapolated, 4.5 pax/sqm would translate to 'maximal overcrowding' by London Underground authorities' definitions; however, James Blake, then Senior Director/Capital Projects of KCRC, noted that 6 pax/sqm was used in demand-capacity projections at peak times, and “this figure would be quite acceptable to the ordinary travelling public even at peak times”p. 11.
In December 2013, the Transport and Housing Bureau submitted detailed definitions to legislators regarding average train loading without specifying the figures: they were eventually released in February 2014  in a Legco subcommittee submission. It recognised that 6 pax/sqm design capacity standards were not achieved in actual operations, and that the service level of new MTR lines is pitched at 4 pax/sqm service benchmark. At 4 pax/sqm, the critical link on the line ran at 99% capacity (34,600 pax/hr) in 2013, partly due to lengthy turnaround times at the present Hung Hom terminus which depressed realizable carrying capacity by 20%.
The fare system of the line generally follows the other lines on the former KCR network. Octopus cards and single ride tickets are available. All persons aged between 12 and 64 are charged the adult fare, whereas children aged 11 or below, full-time students, and 65+ are entitled to a concession fare.
As with the contemporaneous East Tsim Sha Tsui extension, the KCRC adopted a value of time methodology when fare levels were established for new services, resulting in a significant markup compared to bus and KCRC East Rail services. This discrepancy persisted after the KCRC-MTR merger despite several rounds of long-haul discounts.
The line also offers day passes and monthly passes.
- Monthly Passes
"Tuen Mun-Hung Hom Monthly Pass" and "Tuen Mun-Nam Cheong Monthly Pass" are Octopus-stored monthly unlimited passes between said stations, Light Rail, MTR Bus, and designated minibus routes. They were priced at HK$490 and $420 respectively unless passengers hold valid discounted passes ($410/$330), in which case the discount is rolled on. Connections to the rest of the MTR network are charged to the Octopus as if the journey were made from/to the cheapest of the interchanging West Rail Line station.
- Day Passes
"Tuen Mun-Nam Cheong Day Pass" is a $22 electronic/paper ticket combo between said stations, MTR Bus and Light Rail; other onward connections must be made separately by exiting and re-entering the station.
All stations apart from Hung Hom have platform screen doors.
|Livery and Name||District||Connection(s)||Date opened|
|West Rail Line|
|Hung Hom||Yau Tsim Mong||█ East Rail Line||30 November 1974
(as part of East Rail Line)
|East Tsim Sha Tsui||Tsim Sha Tsui Station for █ Tsuen Wan Line||24 October 2004
(as part of East Rail Line)
|Austin||[N 1]||16 August 2009|
|Nam Cheong||Sham Shui Po||█ Tung Chung Line||20 December 2003|
|Mei Foo||█ Tsuen Wan Line|
|Tsuen Wan West||Tsuen Wan||[N 2]|
|Kam Sheung Road||Yuen Long||[N 3]|
|Yuen Long||Yuen Long Stop for █ Light Rail|
|Tin Shui Wai||Tin Shui Wai Stop for █ Light Rail|
|Siu Hong||Tuen Mun||Siu Hong Stop for █ Light Rail|
|Tuen Mun||Tuen Mun Stop for █ Light Rail|
- Kowloon Station of the Tung Chung Line and Airport Express and Austin Station of the West Rail Line are not physically connected. There is pedestrian transfer via a footbridge; the journey time is approximately 10 minutes on foot.
- Tsuen Wan West Station of the West Rail Line and Tsuen Wan Station of the Tsuen Wan Line are not physically linked, but green public light bus route 95K (free transfer with an immediate West Rail journey record on the Octopus card) connects the two stations. It normally takes 15-20 minutes to go to Tsuen Wan Station on foot.
- Plans intend to expand Kam Sheung Road Station in the future, to act as an interchange station between the West Rail main line and the Northern Link extension. For the time being, Kam Sheung Road is a plain through-station without any interchange facilities.
At 9:15am on 14 February 2007, a passenger train broke down when one of the voltage transformers mounted on the train (EMU SP1900) roof exploded. It was suspected that the overheated transformer caused its insulating oil to vaporise, thus causing the explosion. The train-borne circuit breaker, which was connected in parallel to the voltage transformer to the train pantograph, was not designed to isolate this kind of fault.
After the incident, all SP1900 EMUs have had their voltage transformers replaced. The new voltage transformers are German-made dry type transformers, which will not catch fire even if they fail.
This incident occurred in the southbound direction in the tunnel between Kam Sheung Road and Tsuen Wan West, about 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) north of Tsuen Wan West. Around 650 passengers had to evacuate through the dark tunnel to the station, while around 340 people returned to the ground through a ventilation shaft at Chai Wan Kok. Eleven people were sent to hospital. Train services returned to normal after 4 hours.
Construction is under way for West Rail Line's extension from Hung Hom Station through east Kowloon to Ma On Shan Line at Tai Wai Station. Upon completion of Shatin to Central Link (SCL) – Phase I in 2018, passengers can travel between Tuen Mun and Wu Kai Sha without changing trains. 14 new 8-car trains from Changchun Railway Vehicles (HK$1.14 billion), as well as 36 new cars from Itochu-Kinki Sharyo-Kawasaki Consortium (HK$1.18 billion) reconfigured along with 348 existing MTR SP1900/1950 EMUs, will form a fleet of 62 eight-car trains. There will be six stations (Hin Keng, Diamond Hill, To Kwa Wan, Ma Tau Wai, Kai Tak, and Ho Man Tin) on the chord, with 10 km tunnel and 1 km viaduct sections.
Other proposals being tabled include the Northern Link, a spur line from Kam Sheung Road Station to Lok Ma Chau Station and/or to Sheung Shui via Kwu Tung Station, and two new stations in Hung Shui Kiu and Tuen Mun South. Hung Shui Kiu may house 160,000 in a new town, whereas Tuen Mun South is already home to 90,000 residents.
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