Thousands of commuters, some lost and confused, swarmed through a mega railway interchange at Hong Kong’s Admiralty station on Monday morning, the first working day since the opening of the East Rail line cross-harbour extension. Some passengers, unsure about which escalators to use or where the different platforms were located, turned to the dozens of MTR staff positioned around the station holding signboards, to ask for directions. To get to the Tsuen Wan line, passengers coming from the East Rail line have to take an escalator that stretches four storeys, a transfer that takes around two minutes. Pete Lau, a designer who works in Wong Chuk Hang, mistakenly took the escalator up to the Tsuen Wan line platform, instead of heading one floor down to the South Island line. “The station is so big. Once I took the wrong escalator it became a huge detour,” the 30-year-old said. ‘MTR’s post-DSE gift’: Hong Kong train fans in first-ride rush on Sha Tin-Central line The long-awaited cross-harbour extension runs from Hung Hom to Admiralty, via a new Exhibition Centre station, and is the final section of Hong Kong’s costliest rail project. Following the extension’s opening, Admiralty station has become a mega interchange with platforms over six storeys for four MTR lines – the East Rail, Tsuen Wan, Island and South Island. Passengers can cross the harbour using either the Tsuen Wan or East Rail lines. To help them decide, signboards at the concourse and interchange platforms will display the wait times for the north-bound direction of both lines. Displays along the platforms will also indicate the occupancy of each carriage to encourage passengers to board those that are less crowded. A 50-year-old lawyer surnamed Wong, who works in Central, welcomed the extension of the East Rail line as it shortened his commute by 10 minutes. “Before today I had to transfer at Kowloon Tong, then again at Mong Kok. Now I can take the MTR from Fo Tan and only switch once,” Wong said. Over at Hung Hom station, a steady flow of passengers marched across the concourse towards the bus interchange located outside the Cross-Harbour Tunnel. Hong Kong leader hails expected popularity of MTR’s costliest rail project Commuters, however, said bus lines had shortened significantly since the opening of the extension, while trains felt more crowded. “I used to be able to get a seat on the train at this time, but there’s so many people today. Seems like everyone is switching to taking the MTR,” said Cheuk, a construction worker who is employed in Fortress Hill. Wong Kai-wah, a 71-year-old freelancer who works in Ap Lei Chau, said he would continue to take cross-harbour buses from Hung Hom out of comfort and convenience. “There’s a lot of walking involved if I transfer MTR lines, and it’s crowded. On the bus, I get to sit,” Wong said. The East Rail line is serviced by a new signalling system, and nine-car trains have replaced the 12-car ones, reducing the capacity of each train from 3,750 passengers to 2,845. Trains will arrive every 2.7 minutes during weekday morning peak hours, shortened from three minutes. Rail giant the MTR Corporation acknowledged that teething issues could still occur during the extension’s initial operations, and said it would try to minimise the impact on passengers. The Transport Department said it was closely monitoring the extension’s operations. Chief Transport Officer Mark Mok Ka-sing said major interchange stations along the East Rail line were operating normally but he encouraged passengers to plan ahead for their journey during rush hour. At the new Exhibition Centre station in north Wan Chai, dozens of elderly residents spent their Monday morning looking at exhibits, including a timeline detailing the challenges of constructing the cross-harbour section. Residents queued up to take photos with the shell of a World War II bomb, uncovered during construction. Retiree Leung, 70, was on his way to a badminton session with his friend in Sha Tin but alighted to check out the new station. “It was too crowded [on Sunday], but I want to see the exhibition and ride the train across the harbour,” he said. Leung, who lives in Eastern district, said he would now switch lines at Admiralty station when heading to Sha Tin for his games, instead of making three transfers at Quarry Bay, Yau Tong and Kowloon Tong. Thousands of railway buffs rushed to board the first train at dawn on Sunday morning at the Exhibition Centre station, commemorating the maiden voyage across the harbour on the East Rail line. As of 8pm on Sunday, more than 51,900 passenger trips had been recorded at the new station, 49,900 at Hung Hom and 77,800 at Admiralty. The long-overdue opening of the Hung Hom-Admiralty section of the HK$90.7 billion Sha Tin to Central link brought an end to a project plagued by construction delays, glitches and cost overruns.