Hong Kong MTR

MTR rolls out new speed and position-monitoring system to improve safety on Hong Kong’s light rail network

  • The system, which has been developed in-house, relays speed and position data to controllers and drivers in real time
  • The company expects to conduct a review in early 2019 and will fully install the system by the middle of the year
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 November, 2018, 7:44pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 November, 2018, 7:44pm

A new system enabling real-time speed and position monitoring on the city’s light rail vehicles will be rolled out by the middle of next year in a bid to improve safety of the manually operated vehicles, the MTR Corporation said on Thursday.

Announcing the system, called “Integrated Speed and Position Supervision System” (iSPS), which has been developed in-house, Cheung Chi-keung, the MTR Corp’s head of operations for the west region, said three light rail routes in Tin Shui Wai – the 705, 706 and 751P – had already trialled the system.

The new system, developed by the rail giant’s engineers over two years, combines the technology of Global Positioning System (GPS) and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). It operates with on-board GPS receivers and RFID readers, as well as RFID tags installed in track areas.

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During operations, the speed data and the position of the light rail vehicles are relayed back to the Light Rail Operations Control Centre for real-time monitoring.

Cheung said that, as light railcars are operated manually the system will assist the work of light rail drivers.

“Train captains will receive an audio reminder from the system when the speed of the light rail vehicle is about to reach the limit of the section being traversed,” he said.

Other features include reminders for train captains to perform platform duty, and alerts when passing through designated junctions and turnouts.

Cheung believed the new system would help light rail drivers observe good driving practices and the big-data analysis of driving speeds would help enhance safety.

“The iSPS helps enhance not only the efficiency of light rail operations but also the alertness of train captains. We will also continue to explore measures to enhance public awareness of railway safety,” he said.

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The rail operator is to conduct a review early next year and expects to fully install the new system for the current fleet of 140 light rail vehicles by the middle of the year.

Cheung declined to disclose the cost of the new system; however, he said the MTR Corp had obtained the patent for it and it would be available for sale to other rail partners. He explained their engineering team chose to develop the system on their own because they could not find other similar monitoring systems on the market.

Other safety measures, such as zigzag barriers, smart pedestrian warning bollards and inter-car barriers were also introduced at some light rail platforms and pedestrian crossings.

With the light rail system now 30 years in operation, some lawmakers have raised concerns about the effects of ageing on the network.

Carrying around 500,000 commuters a day, the city’s light rail system covers 12 routes and 68 stops with a total route length of 36.15km. The total daily number of light rail trips at present is around 3,000, up 10 per cent from 10 years ago.