New MTR line will have no drivers

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 April, 2012, 12:00am


Driverless trains like those serving Disneyland will transport passengers along the new South Island line when it opens in 2015.

The MTR Corp announcement yesterday came with details of services on the 7km line from Admiralty to South Horizons via Ocean Park, Wong Chuk Hang and Lei Tung.

Chief architect Wilfred Yeung Sze-wai said the fully automatic operation was possible because the line was separate from the rest of the rail network and had its own trains and signalling system.

The design of the trains would be slightly different from those on other lines, with features that 'show the characteristics of the area', the corporation said.

For example, bubble-like lighting would give 'the feeling of being close to the ocean'.

The HK$12.4 billion line will be underground except for the section between the Aberdeen Tunnel toll plaza and Ap Lei Chau, which will be on a viaduct. The trip will take about 11 minutes compared to up to 45 minutes by road during rush hour.

The trains were ordered from Chinese manufacturer Changchun Railway Vehicles, a subsidiary of state-owned China CNR Corporation, but the design is by MBD Design, a French firm that also designed new trams in Hong Kong.

Each train will be able to carry 700 passengers in three cars, with a total capacity of about 20,000 passengers an hour in one direction, the company estimates.

Despite the shorter trains, service frequency will be similar to that of other MTR lines, which generally use eight-car trains.

The line's signalling system, which controls the trains, will be made by French manufacturer Alstom.

The Democratic Party has expressed worries about the safety of the system and the trains because of previous accidents involving the companies, for example the deadly crash between two high-speed trains in Wenzhou in July last year.

But Yeung said: 'The operation is well proven to be a mature technology that is safe and reliable. Passengers can be confident in our service.'

If the train service is disrupted, it will be repaired automatically by the system. Staff members can also control the system remotely from the central control centre.

The operation can also be mobilised remotely when there is a sudden need to increase service frequency, for instance, when there is a typhoon and people have to commute at irregular times.

Though there will be no driver, MTR staff members will be on board to answer questions or help travellers when they need it.

The Disneyland Resort line was the first railway in Hong Kong to use a fully automatic operation when it began operating in 2005.


The number of trips per day on the city's MTR

- There are now 86 railway stations on the network