Hong Kong MTR

Fully automatic trains to start running on South Island Line next year, MTR confirms

Driverless trains will run on the MTR's new South Island Line (East) to South Horizons

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 March, 2015, 11:45pm
UPDATED : Friday, 27 March, 2015, 2:42am

New fully automatic driverless trains will start running to southern Hong Kong Island next year, the MTR confirmed on Thursday, despite excavation difficulties in the Admiralty section and geological challenges at the Lei Tung stop on Ap Lei Chau.

Some 84 per cent of the overall works of the South Island Line (East) has been completed, said project manager Ken Wong Wai-king. The delayed HK$15.2 billion line - originally due to open this year - will run from Admiralty to South Horizons, with intermediate stops at Ocean Park, Wong Chuk Hang and Lei Tung.

The new line will be only the second - after the Disney Resort Line - with fully automatic trains. The rolling stock features glass windows at the front where a driver's cab would normally sit.

There will be no MTR staff on board at all.

"Fully automatic trains have various benefits," said Wong, citing reliability and flexibility.

An obstacle detection system is also fitted to the front of trains. The MTR was criticised last year when a train killed a stray dog at Sheung Shui MTR station.

Wong also dismissed previous fears the new trains would sit too low, stressing there was ample room between the ground and the carriages.

"Previous reports were misleading - the trains comply to the safety rules," said Wong.

Each train consists of three carriages. The MTR Corp has bought 10 trains - 30 carriages in all - costing a total of HK$540 million, between 10 to 20 per cent more than standard carriages.

The trains were manufactured by the mainland's Changchun Railway Vehicles Company, part of the China CNR Corporation.

Both the signalling and train control and management systems are "fully redundant" - meaning if one fails, the other would replace it immediately, said rolling stock construction manager Cheng Wai-kin.

Testing of the new trains will start in April on completed sections of the new line, said Cheng.

The most challenging part of the project would be underpinning excavation work for the tunnel between Ocean Park and Admiralty, which is 70 per cent completed, said Wong.

He added the MTR has no plans to operate trains between Ocean Park and South Horizons early while the remaining work was completed since the signalling system could not function properly and it could potentially delay completion.

Construction of the 7km line started in May 2011. The longest section, between Admiralty and Ocean Park, stretches 3km.