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 Kowloon and Tuen Mun station in Tuen Mun, 35.7 km away, in 37 minutes.[3] The railway runs through the cities of Kowloon, Castle Peak and Tsuen Wan.

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commuter railway standard, anticipating freight[4] and intercity services to Mainland China[5] which were cancelled and superseded by the Guangzhou–Shenzhen–Hong Kong Express Rail Link Hong Kong section.

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.[6][7]



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;[8] 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.[citation needed]

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.[9]

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.[9] 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.[10]p. 39

In August 1996, the KCR Corporation set up the West Rail Steering Committee to oversee all aspects of the project. 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 or eight cars are currently run) is a result of improved ultimate headway from 120 seconds to 90.[11]

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[10] in 2002 prices which was some 28% lower than the original estimate in 1998;[12] later reports cite $51.7 billion in money of the day prices.[9]

Initial operation

Originally, the KCRC expected the West Rail to have a daily ridership of about 340,000 upon commissioning and 500,000 by 2011.[13] Actual figures hovered around 100,000 by April 2004,[14] however, and rose to 170,000 by the end of the year following a series of discounts.[15]

Some 30,000 flats were originally planned to be built along the route between 2006 and 2011,[16] 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.[17]

Improvement of signalling system

Frequent breakdowns (by local standards: 24 incidents in 2004 caused a delay of eight minutes or more)[18] led KCRC Chairman Michael Tien to announce that he would consider resigning if service performance failed to improve.[citation needed]

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 overhead 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.[citation needed]

Kowloon Southern Link

On 16 August 2009, the Kowloon Southern Link from Nam Cheong to East Tsim Sha Tsui station was opened. At the same time, the existing 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.[19]


The West Rail line 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 assault.[20]


The track is mostly underground 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 at 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 Tsuen Wan West station on reclaimed land, after which a 5.5 km (3.4 mi) 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 eastwards through the new towns of Yuen Long and Tin Shui Wai, before taking a bend towards the Tuen Mun River and terminating at Tuen Mun station.

Capacity and ridership

Rolling stock

The line is served by 31 seven- and eight-car MTR SP1900/1950 EMUs, of which 26 run during the morning peak service with a 171-second headway: MTRC specifies capacities of 52 seated and 286 standing passengers per car.[3] The EMUs, manufactured by Kinki Sharyo, deliver passengers at an average speed of 56 km/h and maximum 130 km/h.[citation needed] SelTrac, a fully automatic moving-block control system, is used throughout the line.[citation needed] Since January 2016, 7-car trains have been progressively converted to 8-car trains for the East West Corridor extension (see § Future development); this will be complete in 2018.[21][22]

Theoretical capacity

The line increased capacity between the northwest New Territories and urban areas by about 80%, and on the Tuen Mun-Yuen Long Corridor by about 200%.[10] 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.[23]

Japanese manufacturer Kinki Sharyo quoted car capacities (standing plus seating) upward of 430 for cab cars and 452 for the rest.[24] KCRC's stress tests prior to the system's début specified a crush-load capacity of 2345, or 335[4] passengers in longitudinal seating for each of its seven cars, which corresponds to seven passengers per square metre[25] in line with MTRC standards.[26] This contrasts with a worst-case allowable planning standard of 5 pax/square metre in the United States.[27]

In industry journals, KCRC engineers and academics quoted ultimate limits upwards of 100,000 under 105-second headways,[9][10] in nine-car configuration; however, both post-merger MTRC[3] 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';[28] 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):[29] consultants thus referred to "under-utilisation of train capacity"[29]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.)

Actual ridership

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.[30]

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%.[31] Extrapolated, 4.5 pax/square metre would translate to 'maximal overcrowding' by London Underground authorities' definitions;[32] however, James Blake, then Senior Director/Capital Projects of KCRC, noted that 6 pax/square metre 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”[26]p. 11.

In December 2013, the Transport and Housing Bureau submitted detailed definitions to legislators regarding average train loading without specifying the figures:[33] they were eventually released in February 2014[34] in a Legco subcommittee submission. It recognised that 6 pax/square metre design capacity standards were not achieved in actual operations, and that the service level of new MTR lines is pitched at 4 pax/square metre service benchmark. At 4 pax/square metre, 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%.

Fare system

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.[citation needed]

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.[35] This discrepancy persisted after the KCRC-MTR merger despite several rounds of long-haul discounts.[citation needed]

The line also offers day passes and monthly passes.[36]

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.
A sightseeing-bus service was run as a temporary feeder service of the West Rail line in the northwest New Territories. This service was launched on 26 September 2004 and ended on 28 November.[37]


The following is a list of the stations on the West Rail line.

Livery and name District Connections Opening date
West Rail line
Hung Hom Yau Tsim Mong      East Rail line
Through Train services to Mainland China
30 November 1975[a]
East Tsim Sha Tsui Tsim Sha Tsui station for      Tsuen Wan line 24 October 2004[a]
Austin [b] 16 August 2009
Nam Cheong Sham Shui Po      Tung Chung line 20 December 2003
Mei Foo      Tsuen Wan line
Tsuen Wan West Tsuen Wan [c]
Kam Sheung Road Yuen Long
Yuen Long Yuen Long stop for      Light Rail 610 614 615 761P
Long Ping
Tin Shui Wai Tin Shui Wai stop for      Light Rail 705 706 751 751P 761P
Siu Hong Tuen Mun Siu Hong stop for      Light Rail 505 610 614 614P 615 615P 751
Tuen Mun Tuen Mun stop for      Light Rail 505 507 751


  1. ^ a b Originally opened as part of the East Rail line.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ 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.

Major incidents

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 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.[38]

As an apology, the West Rail was opened for free rides on 21 February 2007, the first working day after the Chinese New Year holiday.[39]

Future development

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 Sha Tin to Central Link (SCL) – Phase I in 2019,[40] passengers can travel between Tuen Mun and Wu Kai Sha without changing trains. 17 new 8-car trains from Changchun Railway Vehicles (HK$1.38 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 65 eight-car trains.[41] There will be five stations (Hin Keng, Diamond Hill, Kai Tak, To Kwa Wan and Ho Man Tin) on the chord, with 10 km tunnel and 1 km viaduct sections.[citation needed]

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.[29]

See also


  1. ^ "Weekday patronage of MTR heavy rail network from September 1 to 27 and September 28 to October 25, 2014" (PDF). Legislative Council. 29 October 2014. Retrieved 15 April 2015. 
  2. ^ "Island Line". Highways Department The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. 14 April 2015. Retrieved 25 May 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c MTR Corporation Limited. "Business Review" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-02-20. 
  4. ^ a b KCRC (1999). "Planning for New Projects" (PDF). KCRC. Retrieved 2014-02-20. 
  5. ^ Panel on Transport, Subcommittee on Matters Relating to Railways (2013-11-22). "Appendix II: Chronology of major developments of the Hong Kong section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link project" (PDF). Legislative Council, Hong Kong. Retrieved 2014-02-20. LC Paper No. CB(1)308/13-14(05) 
  6. ^ "兩鐵世紀合併 香港鐵路登場". Wikinews (in Chinese). Wikimedia Foundation. 2 December 2007. Retrieved 5 March 2015. 
  7. ^ "History – About KCRC". Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation. Retrieved 5 March 2015. 
  8. ^ Runnacles, Timothy V (1998). "4". In Dimitrou H.T.; et al. Land use/Transport Planning in Hong Kong: The End of an Era. Ashgate. p. 110. 
  9. ^ a b c d Blessis, Danal A. (2000). "West Rail: A Project Profile" (PDF). Journal of Geospatial Engineering. 2 (1): 53–61. Retrieved 2014-02-20. 
  10. ^ a b c d Au, Siu-fung (2004). "Inter-modal co-ordination of West Rail with other public transport modes" (PDF). The University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong). 
  11. ^ Wade, Colin (2006). "Value Engineering West Rail" (PDF). Arup Journal. 3: 24. Retrieved 11 October 2013. 
  12. ^ Legislative Council (2002-02-06). "LCQ2: Competitive fares for Tseung Kwan O Extension and West Rail" (PDF). Legislative Council, Hong Kong. Retrieved 2014-02-20. 
  13. ^ KCRC: Legislative Council Panel on Transport (2000-02-18). "West Rail Project Update" (PDF). Legislative Council, Hong Kong. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  14. ^ KCRC (April 2004). "Annex B Legislative Council Panel on Transport: Interchange Discount between West Rail/MTR" (PDF). Legislative Council, Hong Kong. Retrieved 2014-02-20. LC Paper No. CB(1)1556/03-04(05) 
  15. ^ KCRC (November 2004). "Legislative Council Panel on Transport: The Expiry of West Rail's Second 10% Discount" (PDF). Legislative Council, Hong Kong. Retrieved 2014-02-20. 
  16. ^ KCRC (July 2001). "KCR West Rail Phase I Presentation to LegCo Transport Panel Subcommittee on Matters Relating to the Implementation of Railway Development Projects" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-02-20. 
  17. ^ Yeung, Rikkie (2008). Moving Millions: The Commercial Success and Political Controversies of Hong Kong's Railways. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. ISBN 978-962-209-963-0. 
  18. ^ KCRC (September 2005). "Legislative Council Panel on Transport Subcommittee on matters relating to railways: Review of West Rail incidents" (PDF). Legislative Council, Hong Kong. Retrieved 2014-02-20. 
  19. ^ "Kowloon Southern Link Opens on 16 August" (PDF) (Press release). Hong Kong: MTR Corporation. 30 July 2009. Retrieved 18 February 2015. 
  20. ^ MTRC urged to install CCTV cameras, RTHK, 30 January 2011
  21. ^ "First West Rail Line 8-car Train Ready for Passenger Service from 2 January" (PDF). MTR Corporation. 28 December 2015. Retrieved 29 March 2016. 
  22. ^ Au-yeung, Allen (28 December 2015). "MTR adds eight-car trains to Hong Kong's West Rail line". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 29 March 2016. 
  23. ^ Research Office, Information Services Division (January 2014). "Research Brief Issue No. 4: Measures to ease crowdedness of train compartments in overseas cities" (PDF). Legislative Council, Hong Kong. Retrieved 2014-02-20. 
  24. ^ Kinki Sharyo (2004). "Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation (KCRC), Hong Kong Electric Multiple Unit (EMU)". Retrieved 2014-02-20. 
  25. ^ Ming Pao Daily (2003-09-14). "西鐵「沙包試車」 測試負重力". Ming Pao Daily. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  26. ^ a b Legislative Council Secretariat (26 April 2000). "Legislative Council Panel on Transport: Minutes of Meeting held on Wednesday, 29 March 2000, at 8:30 am in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building" (PDF). Legislative Council, Hong Kong. Retrieved 2014-02-20. LC Paper No. CB(1)1436/99-00 
  27. ^ Kittleson & Associates Inc. for Transit Cooperative Research Program (2003). Transit Capacity & Quality of Service Manual. Washington D.C.: TCRP. 
  28. ^ "MTR train frequencies of railway lines in different periods, number of cars on each train, train carrying capacity, train loading rates and number of seats" (PDF). HKSAR Government. 12 January 2011. Retrieved 10 February 2014. 
  29. ^ a b c Our Future Railway (2013). Review and Update of the "Railway Development Strategy 2000" - Stage 2 Public Engagement – Consultation Document (PDF). Transport and Housing Bureau. p. 12. 
  30. ^ Council Business Division 1, Legislative Council Secretariat (July 2013). "Panel on Transport: Subcommittee on Matters Relating to Railways. Meeting on 5 July 2013: Updated background brief on railway service performance" (PDF). Legislative Council, Hong Kong. p. 3. Retrieved 2014-02-20. LC Paper No. CB(1)1421/12-13(02) 
  31. ^ Legislative Council (July 17, 2013). "LCQ12: Train services of MTR West Rail line and Light Rail". Retrieved 2014-02-20. 
  32. ^ Greater London Authority (September 2009). "Too close for comfort: Passengers' experiences of the London Underground" (PDF). Greater London Authority. 
  33. ^ Transport and Housing Bureau (December 4, 2013). "LCQ10: MTR service". Transport and Housing Bureau, Hong Kong SARG. Retrieved 2014-02-20. 
  34. ^ Transport and Housing Bureau (February 2014). "Legislative Council Panel on Transport Subcommittee on Matters Relating to Railways: Capacity and Loading of MTR Trains" (PDF). Legislative Council, Hong Kong. Retrieved 25 February 2014. CB(1)980/13-14(03) 
  35. ^ KCRC (October 2004). "Legislative Council Panel on Transport: An Update on the Tsim Sha Tsui Extension Project and its Fares" (PDF). Legislative Council, Hong Kong. Retrieved 2014-02-20. 
  36. ^ MTR (February 2012). "Day Pass – Monthly Pass" (PDF). Mass Transit Railway Corporation. Retrieved 2012-02-21. 
  37. ^ KCRC press release
  38. ^ Cheng, Jonathan (15 February 2007). "KCRC in pledge on safety". Hong Kong Standard. Retrieved 2007-01-30. 
  39. ^ "Remarks of KCRC Chairman Mr Michael Tien on the West Rail Incident". KCRC. 15 February 2007. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-02-18. 
  40. ^ Dunn, Martin (30 April 2013). "Opportunities with Corporation Businesses Railtex Exhibition – Export Events" (PDF). MTR Corporation Ltd. 
  41. ^ MTRCL (24 January 2014). "New Train Contracts for Future East West Corridor of Shatin to Central Link Awarded" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-02-20. PR007/14 

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