Professional Commons XRL Oct09 (text-only)

[Hong Kong Interchange Option]

A cheaper, faster and better Express

Rail Link


New XRL Expert Group*

October 2009

* Members (in alphabetical order): Dr Hung Wing-tat, Ir. Albert Lai, Dr. Leung

Kai-chi, Mr. Stanley Ng, Ms Pong Yuen-yee, Ir. Ronald Taylor, Mr. Paul

Zimmerman (with support from the research team of The Professional


A Cheaper, Faster and Better Express Rail Link

Page 1 October 2009


1.1 History

1.1.1 The Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link is a new railway line

which will link Hong Kong with the National High Speed railway network and will

further enhance Hong Kong’s strategic position as the southern gateway to

Mainland China.

1.1.2 The Link will provide frequent services from a new terminus in Hong Kong to

Shibi in the suburbs of Guangzhou, via Futian and Longhua in Shenzhen and

Humen in Dongguan. At Shibi the Link will connect to the national express rail

network which will provide long haul services to other major cities in the

Mainland. Also from Shibi, a separate rail link will take passengers into the

centre of Guangzhou.

1.1.3 The construction of the Hong Kong Section, south of the Boundary, hereinafter

referred to as Express Rail Link, is the responsibility of the Hong Kong

Government, who have entrusted the procurement of the project to the Mass

Transit Railway Corporation.

1.1.4 Various studies have been undertaken by the Hong Kong Government, the

Kowloon Canton Railway Corporation and, since the merger of the two Hong

Kong railway corporations, by the Mass Transit Railway Corporation.

1.1.5 These studies concluded that the Hong Kong terminus for the Express Rail Link

should be located at West Kowloon with a dedicated route from the Boundary,

as opposed to making use of the spare capacity on the other lines serving West


1.1.6 The piecemeal development of West Kowloon with Kowloon Station, and more

recently Austin Station, prevents integration of Government’s West Kowloon

Station Option for the Express Rail Link into an integrated rail transport hub.

1.2 The Alternative Integrated Option

1.2.1 Since the commencement of the studies, the cost of providing the Express Rail

Link south of the Boundary have increased over fourfold with the latest

estimated cost of $63 Bn. This cost is more than the combined cost of the West

Hong Kong West Island Line, the Hong Kong South Island Line, and the Shatin-

Central Line.

1.2.2 This escalation of cost raises serious doubts on the cost effectiveness of the

investment for Government’s West Kowloon Station Option, especially as a

statement from the Hong Kong Government that the benefit to Hong Kong will

only be $80Bn accrued over a 50 year period.

1.2.3 The studies undertaken for the Express Rail Link considered locating the

terminus at Kam Sheung Road, in close proximity to the existing West Rail Line

station and also considered an intermediate station at this location on a line

termination at West Kowloon. They did not consider the option of providing a

terminus at Kam Sheung Road integrated with both the West Rail Line and a

direct rail link to Hong Kong Island and to Chek Lap Kok.

A Cheaper, Faster and Better Express Rail Link

Page 2 October 2009

1.2.4 This alternative, the Integrated Option, locates the terminus for the Express Rail

Link adjacent to the West Rail Kam Sheung Road Station forming an integrated

station with a terminus on an extension of the Airport Railway from Tsing Yi thus

providing a fast link to Hong Kong Island. This integrated interchange station will

become an important railway hub and, for the purpose of this report, it is

referred to as HK Interchange and the extension of the Airport Railway as the

HK Island Express.


2.1 Interchange

2.1.1 The West Kowloon Station is located between Kowloon Station and Austin

Station but distant from them both. Lin Cheung Road, between Kowloon Station

and the West Kowloon Station, will include both at-grade and depressed roads

thus not allowing any subway connection between the two separate stations.

2.1.2 The EIA reports confirms that access between the two stations will be via a

footbridge requiring passengers in West Kowloon Station to make use of

escalators and lifts to access the footbridge level, about 35 metres above

platform level, equivalent to 11 floors in a building. Once passengers are within

the Kowloon Station complex, they will be directed through the “Elements” retail

area to further lifts and escalators, which will take them down about 30 metres

to the Tung Chung Line platform, equivalent to a further 9 floors of a building.

2.1.3 The passenger interchange between these two stations will be difficult and slow,

thus giving poor access to and from Hong Kong Island and other locations.

Excluding the time for customs and immigration it is anticipated the transfer time

between platforms will be around 12 minutes.

2.1.4 Access between the West Kowloon Station and Austin Station will be by a

subway beneath the new Road D1 which will run parallel and to the west of

Austin Station. Passengers will ascend about 19 metres, equivalent to 6 building

floors, and then walk through the subway into Austin Station where they

descend to the West Rail platform. The subway distance between the centres

of the two stations is about 120 metres.

2.2 Construction

2.2.1 The construction of the West Kowloon Station Option will be a massive

undertaking in a constrained site. It requires the formation of a large deep

excavation with an area approximately the size of 25 standard MTR stations,

such as those in Nathan Road, and also as deep as the deepest stations. The

depth is constrained by the need for the approach tunnels to pass beneath the

recently opened West Rail extension on the Kowloon Southern Link.

2.2.2 Due to the nature of the site, requiring a deep excavation which must be kept

dry, it is not possible to stage the major construction works to allow for a staged

construction of the station. If such an arrangement were possible, the initial

construction would be for those facilities which are required for the initial and

foreseeable rail operations. Those facilities which might be required at a later

date would be constructed at a time when their needs have been properly

identified. With the station at West Kowloon all of the major construction must

be undertaken now, thus some of the platforms and spaces formed may never

be required or may be required in a different form from which they have been


2.2.3 The site is also very constrained as there are very limited areas for use as

working space, since excavation and construction is over the whole of the site.

The magnitude of the several different contracts for the construction will create

many problems on interfacing and there is very high risk that completion by

2015 will not be achieved.

2.2.4 Construction of the tunnels leading into the station will require another diversion

and reconstruction of Jordan Road which has only just been reinstated following

the construction of the Kowloon Southern Link leading into Austin Station.

Traffic in the area will therefore again be subject to disruption for a five year

period while the station and approach tunnels are constructed.

2.2.5 The route from the Boundary requires the construction of 25 km of tunnels

including a 6 km long tunnel 700 metres beneath the slopes of Tai Mo Shan and

a 1.2 km long Emergency Rescue Centre and Depot depressed several metres

below the surrounding ground level.

2.3 Traffic

2.3.1 The West Kowloon area is recognised for traffic congestion, particularly for

southbound traffic from the West Kowloon Expressway. This traffic has to make

a right turn onto Canton Road which is currently achieved at the Wui Cheung

Road T junction. In the future this traffic will be diverted to make a right turn at

the four-way junction between Austin Road and Canton Road immediately after

merging with traffic from the station and traffic from the western section of

Austin Road. There are serious doubts on the adequacy of the space and

lengths between junctions to accommodate these traffic movements without

significant congestion.

2.3.2 Traffic in the area is heavily constrained by the large number of junctions with

inadequate length for vehicle queuing between adjacent signal controlled

junctions. The provision of Road D1, requiring the introduction of a further fourway

junction on Jordan Road immediately to the north of the station, will not be

conducive to the free flow of traffic along Jordan Road.

A Cheaper, Faster and Better Express Rail Link

Page 4 October 2009

2.3.3 Some relief to the existing flows will be given by the Central Kowloon Route, but

this will mainly reduce flows along Gascoigne Road rather than further south.

Any reduction in traffic flows in this area, resulting from the Central Kowloon

Route, will be quickly absorbed by the traffic from the new developments at the

Elements and ICC Development and the WKCD.

2.3.4 The design of the road system associated with the Government’s West Kowloon

Station Option has therefore been aimed at providing reasonable free access to

the station from the north and the Western Harbour Crossing without being able

to achieve similar conditions for traffic from the station to the south. It can

therefore be expected that that traffic leaving the station for the south and east

will suffer congestion and delays for much of the day.

2.4 Impact on the WKCD

2.4.1 The track overruns beyond the end of the platforms, necessary in the event that

a train does not stop at the required position alongside the platform, extend

south under the site allocated for the WKDC. The underground structure,

necessary to provide these overruns, adds significant problems to achieving a

good design for the WKCD.


3.1 The Express Rail Link to HK Interchange

3.1.1 The route for the Integrated Option to HK Interchange initially follows the route

as for the West Kowloon Station Option from Futian Station to where it passes

under the San Tin Highway. Here the routes deviates with the route to HK

Interchange swinging to the south, crossing under the Ngau Tam Mei valley,

and continuing underground running roughly parallel to the San Tin Highway

towards HK Interchange.

3.1.2 North of the San Tin Highway and across the Ngau Tam Mei valley, the tunnels

would be through soft ground. On either side of the Ngau Tam Mei valley where

the ground is higher, the tunnels will be through hard or mixed ground

conditions. All of these tunnels will be bored whereas the tunnels on the

approaches to HK Interchange will be constructed by cut-and-cover methods in

the soft ground.

3.1.3 The two primary options for the Integrated HK Interchange Station are with the

Express Rail Link Station underground and with it above ground. The latter will

be cheaper and quicker to construct and also allows greater flexibility for

construction phasing. Both options allow for a simple and quick ground level

interchange between the Express Rail Link, the HK Island Express, West Rail

and road based transport as shown diagrammatically below. Road based

transport will also be able to directly access the adjacent Route 3 Expressway.

3.1.4 Escalators, supplemented by lifts for passengers with luggage and mobility

impaired passengers, will carry the passengers for the 8 metre change in level

between the platforms and the Immigration / Customs areas. For the

underground arrangement the rise will be about 10 metres. The centre of the

Express Rail Link platforms to the centre of the West Rail platforms is only 100

metres, thus providing for an integrated station.

3.1.5 The Express Rail Link tracks continue through the station and rise (or, for the

above ground option, descend) to ground level where they continue to the

maintenance and servicing depot to the south. In this way trains, particularly

long-haul trains, do not need to be stabled within the station as in Government’s

West Kowloon Station Option, thus enabling HK Interchange Station to have the

same capacity as a station at West Kowloon with fewer tracks and platforms

thereby reducing the stations overall size.

3.1.6 The depot for the Integrated Option will be above ground to the south of Pat

Heung Road occupying an area which is affected by noise from the adjacent

Route 3, Tsing Long Highway and hence with limited commercial development


3.2 The Extension of the Airport Railway

3.2.1 Fundamental to providing fast access to Hong Kong Island and to the Airport is

the extension of the Airport Railway to HK Interchange to form the HK Island


3.2.2 The Airport Line and the Tung Chung Line have separate tracks between Tsing

Yi and Kowloon but share the same pair of tracks across the Tsing Ma Bridge

and on Lantau. The overall capacity of the two lines is constrained by the Tsing

Ma Bridge thus a spur from the line between Tsing Yi and the Tsing Ma Bridge

can make use of the spare capacity south to Kowloon.

3.2.3 From HK Interchange, the line for the HK Island Express will run south above

ground level with West Rail on the east and the Tsing Long Highway on the

west. A kilometre and a half south of Pat Heung Road, it enters a tunnel, some

400 metres to the east of the Route 3 tunnel portal, and continues in tunnel

under the Tai Lam Country Park. The tunnel will be through rock for its full

length with the possible exception of short sections of soft ground near the

portals. No access either for construction or the permanent works will be

required from within the Country Park.

3.2.4 The line for the HK Island Express emerges from tunnel, after passing under the

Tuen Mun Highway, and continues on viaduct to cross the Rambler Channel

and the Tsing Yi Coast Road before re-entering a tunnel under the northern

Tsing Yi hills. Here the two tracks would be carried in separate tunnels which

would swing to the east and junction with the tunnels for the Airport Express and

Tung Chung Lines. These tunnels will be through rock strata.

3.2.5 The HK Island Express from HK Interchange would use the same pair of tracks

as the Airport Express travelling via Tsing Yi and Kowloon Stations to Hong

Kong Station. The journey time from HK Interchange to Hong Kong Station, in

the commercial heart of Hong Kong, would be 21 minutes with a train leaving

every 6 minutes in the peak period.

3.2.6 At Tsing Yi Station passengers could change trains for a train from the other

platform direct to Chek Lap Kok or to Sunny Bay and Tung Chung and the same

procedure in the reverse direction.

3.2.7 The direct link to HK Interchange from Hong Kong Island and from Kowloon

opens up the possibility of in-town check in for travellers and their luggage

heading on long-haul trains from HK Interchange.

3.3 Shorter Travel Times with the Integrated Option

3.3.1 With the Government’s West Kowloon Station Option, travellers from the New

Territories and northern Kowloon will have to travel south before boarding a

train to travel north. This is both time consuming and inefficient and will result in

many of these travellers taking the alternative road transport to the Boundary.

3.3.2 With the Integrated Option many of these travellers will travel north to HK

Interchange and take the much shorter journey to the Boundary.

3.3.3 The constraints on the West Kowloon Station Option, which result in the

platforms being in excess of 25 metres below ground makes for a time

consuming interchange to Austin Station and in particular to Kowloon Station.

The good interchange available at HK Interchange, together with the fast

service to Hong Kong Island, results in shorter travel times to both Hong Kong

Island and to the Airport.

3.3.4 An assumption for the West Kowloon Station is that half the passengers will

arrive by road as opposed to by rail. These road journeys will be predominantly

to destinations in the southern Kowloon area and, as noted earlier, are likely to

be affected by increasingly heavy traffic congestion. Faster overall journeys will

be achieved from HK Interchange by adopting the feeder services.

3.3.5 Over 60% of the population will have a faster route across the Boundary with

the Integrated Option than with the Government’s West Kowloon Station Option.

Only 5% will have a marginally longer journey.

3.3.6 With HK Interchange travellers from Tuen Mun, Tin Shui Wai and Yuen Long

will find that a journey to Futian and Longhua is quicker than the alternative by

bus to Lok Ma Chau and walking across the Boundary. The Integrated Option

will this attract more travellers than Government’s West Kowloon Station Option.


4.1 General

4.1.1 Published reports indicate that the capacity of the Express Rail Link will be 20

trains per hour with about 80% as shuttle or short-haul trains and the remaining

20% as long-haul trains operating to destinations beyond Guangzhou. This

allows for up to four long-haul trains an hour. Train scheduling is such that

there would be a lay-over period before a long-haul train starts its return


4.1.2 Government’s West Kowloon Station is remote from any location where a longhaul

train can be stabled and the journey from the station to the stabling area at

Shek Kong would occupy valuable train paths on the main line thus reducing the

capacity for trains in service. Stabling of long-haul trains must therefore be

done at West Kowloon station thereby occupying space which cannot be used

for another train. The West Kowloon station is thus larger than it need be for

passenger operations as it must also provide space for stabling trains.

4.1.3 The HK Interchange Station does not suffer from this problem, in that a train can

be stabled and serviced away from the station at the depot to the south. HK

Interchange Station can thus be smaller, and with less tracks and platforms,

than the West Kowloon Station while still having equivalent capacity.

4.1.4 The servicing a long-haul train outside of the station reduces the need for tracks

and platforms in the station and six tracks would be adequate within the station.

This arrangement of servicing the trains outside of the station will also enable

the emptying of toilets, an operation not favoured while the train is in a station.

4.1.5 With 16 short-haul or shuttle trains an hour, four platform tracks would be

sufficient given that alighting and boarding will take place on opposite sides of

the trains. Even so each track would only be used on average for four trains in

an hour which represents a low usage rate for a rail terminus.


5.1 Purpose

5.1.1 For the Government’s West Kowloon Station Option the length of the tunnel

between Futian and West Kowloon is such that an intermediate Emergency

Rescue Centre is required and this has been located at Choi Yuen Village

requiring the resumption of the entire village.

A Cheaper, Faster and Better Express Rail Link

Page 8 October 2009

5.1.2 For the Integrated Option there is no need for an intermediate Emergency

Rescue Centre as the distance from Futian to HK Interchange is about one third

of that to West Kowloon.

5.1.3 The Integrated Option, like the West Kowloon Station Option, requires a depot

to service the Express Rail Link south of the Boundary and to provide inspection

and basic maintenance for trains serving HK Interchange.

5.1.4 The depot at Shek Kong for the West Kowloon Station Option includes facilities

to maintain the permanent way, overhead line and other fixed infrastructure as

there is no link from that line to any of the other Hong Kong rail lines. For the

Integrated Option a simple connection into the West Rail Pat Heung Depot

would allow for equipment sharing thus obviating the need for separate facilities.

5.1.5 This allows for more efficient use of equipment and reduces the land required

for the depot for the Integrated Option as compared to that required for the West

Kowloon Station Option.

5.2 Depot for the Integrated Option

5.2.1 There are a number of options for the depot for the Integrated Option and the

one selected at this stage is at the head of the Kam Tin Valley adjacent to the

Route 3 Tsing Long Highway. From HK Interchange station, the connecting

tracks would follow the perimeter of the West Rail facilities thus facilitating the

service connection into the Pat Heung Depot. To the south of Pat Heung Road

the connection to the depot would follow the boundary to the Route 3 Tsing

Long Highway.

5.2.2 The depot would have 8 stabling tracks each of 520 metres in length and 4

adjacent covered running maintenance tracks each of 480 metres in length.

This will allow for basic servicing such as internal cleaning, replenishment of the

restaurant facilities and the emptying of the toilets.

5.2.3 These facilities, together with the necessary buildings and plant rooms for the

operation of the depot, can be accommodated within a site of about 100 metres

in width.


6.1 West Kowloon Station Option

6.1.1 The major resumption for the Government’s West Kowloon Station Option is at

Choi Yuen Village which requires the resumption of an entire village with active

farming activities. Other resumption is required for ventilation buildings at a few

strategic locations along the route.

6.2 Integrated Option

6.2.1 With the Integrated Option Choi Yuen Village is not affected and can remain.

6.2.2 The site for the HK Interchange Station is already Government land and minimal

resumption is envisaged for the Express Rail Link from the north.

6.2.3 There will be some resumption of private land to the south for the Depot and the

connecting line and for the parallel HK Island Express but all indigenous villages

will be avoided.


7.1 West Kowloon Station Option

7.1.1 Planning, design and administrative procedures are already well advanced for

the West Kowloon Station Option.

7.1.2 However there is still a high risk that the magnitude of the construction work will

not enable the scheduled completion by 2015.

7.2 Integrated Option

7.2.1 The work to construct the Express Rail Link for the Integrated Option is

substantially less than that for the West Kowloon Station Option and the work

for the HK Island Express can be undertaken in parallel as they are completely

separate geographically.

7.2.2 For the Integrated Option an Environmental Impact Assessment will have to be

undertaken and the route gazetted, thus giving a later date for the start of

construction than for the West Kowloon Station Option.

7.2.3 Due to the reduced extent of work for the Express Rail Link with the Integrated

Option, compared with that for the West Kowloon Station Option, completion by

2015 would be achievable provided that there is a “Will to Succeed” by both

Government and the MTRC with a commensurate shortening of the time they

normally take for their administrative procedures.

7.2.4 The approximate times required are:

  • · Design, EIA and gazetting 1.5 Years
  • · Civil Construction 3 Years
  • · Systems / Architectural 1 Year
  • · Contingency 0.5 Years

This would give completion in 2015 with a low risk of the construction taking

longer than scheduled.


8.1 West Kowloon Station Option

8.1.1 The costs for Government’s West Kowloon Station Option have been reported

to be $63Bn, even though there is a possibility that the final estimate may be

depressed to around $50Bn by delaying certain works or shifting some costs to

adjacent projects.

8.2 Integrated Option

8.2.1 The estimate of the full cost for the Integrated Option is $25Bn, made up of

$14Bn for the Express Rail Link, $7Bn for the HK Island Express and with an

allowance of $4Bn for land resumption.

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Page 10 October 2009

8.2.2 The land at West Kowloon earmarked for the West Kowloon Station, can be

sold for development for a much higher price than with the restriction imposed

by being above a major station. The enhanced revenue from the sale of this site

could be used to offset the cost of the Integrated Option. The value of the site is

already enhanced by the proximity of Kowloon and Austin Stations and would

not be further enhanced by the Express Rail Link.


9.1 Cheaper

9.1.1 The cost of Government’s West Kowloon Station Option, which includes the

cost of the West Kowloon Station and the Shek Kong Emergency Rescue and

Depot facilities is currently $63Bn. A major portion of this cost is the West

Kowloon Station attributed to its depth and location with its deep cut-and-cover

approach tunnels.

9.1.2 These high cost items are avoided by the Integrated Option, giving an estimated

cost for the Integrated Option as $25Bn, less than half.

9.2 Faster

9.2.1 Over 60% of the population will have a faster route across the Boundary with

the Integrated Option than with the Government’s West Kowloon Station Option.

Only 5% will have a marginally longer journey.

9.3 Quicker

9.3.1 There is a high risk that the construction of the tunnels to West Kowloon and the

station at West Kowloon cannot be achieved by the due date.

9.3.2 The construction works for the Integrated Option is significantly less than that

for Government’s West Kowloon Station Option and the risk of programme

overruns is significantly less, thus giving a better assurance that the overall

completion date can be met.

9.4 Better

9.4.1 The Integrated Option is Cheaper, provides Faster travel for the majority of the

Hong Kong population and visitors, is Quicker to construct thus making it Better

than Government’s West Kowloon Station Option.

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