The third mainland-built bullet train for the local section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link traversed some 2,500 kilometers southward to the city last week, all the way from the state-owned CRRC Corp’s Qingdao plant in northern Shandong province via the mainland’s extensive high-speed rail network.
The train looks sleek with a streamlined head and a holistic aerodynamic design. Sweeping streaks of red and white patterns run across the train’s silver livery, while a vivid orange arc accentuates the sides of the first car.
The train comprises two trailer cars – one at each end – and six motor cars in the middle, each with a seating capacity for 579 passengers plus wheelchair spaces.
Its stylish passenger cars, made from lightweight stainless steel and aluminum alloy bodies, feature a range of facilities on board including free Wi-Fi, ergonomic passenger interface, extra-large toilets for wheelchair users, as well as reversible seats with power sockets of both Hong Kong and mainland standards. A first-class coach can sit 68 people with extra legroom, reading lamps and ambient lighting.
The whole batch of nine eight-carriage rolling stocks that the MTR Corp. bought from CRRC for HK$1.74 billion in 2012 is modeled on the CRH380A series, echoing the design of Japan’s Shinkansen trains.
The train is designed to operate at a cruise speed of 350 kilometers per hour and a maximum of 380 km/h, similar to the commercial service of the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway.
Before galloping across the border on the just-installed underground track, the train’s locomotive, passenger coaches and on-board systems went through tests to verify its operability, during a stopover at Shenzhen’s massive Futian station, which was inaugurated in December 2015 as Asia’s largest underground train terminus.
The delivery signifies the completion of the interface tunnel between Huanggang in Shenzhen and Mai Po in Hong Kong, meaning the local section is now connected to China’s sprawling 20,000 km high-speed rail network.
Multiple trips have been made on the Guangzhou-Shenzhen section for tests of the traction and braking system, and compatibility of the signaling and communications systems as well.
The first two trains were delivered to the MTRC from Qingdao by sea. The remaining six train sets are expected to be delivered to Hong Kong later this year, as the 26-km all-tunnel local section is slated to be up and running by the end of the third quarter next year.
“Track-laying works and installation of overhead lines have been completed. Overhead lines in the main tunnels and along parts of the tracks at West Kowloon Terminus have been energized. The signalling and communications systems of both the Hong Kong and mainland sections were connected on 5 July 2017,” MTR said in a press statement.
The control center of the local section is at the Shek Kong Stabling Sidings in Yuen Long, while the Guangzhou center will take over the scheduling and monitoring of trains north of the border.
The entire project is progressing well within schedule and was 94.3 percent complete by the end of June 2017.
The MTRC has announced it will procure more China-made trains to progressively replace the British-made rolling stock currently serving Island Line, Kwun Tong Line, Tsuen Wan Line and Tseung Kwan O Line. CRRC beat all bidders to bag the HK$6 billion order for 93 new trains, reportedly with the highest price discounts on offer.
Yet, even well before these new trains start rolling in, safety has already been a cause for concern after Singapore’s MRT found hairline cracks in key structural components of similar CRRC trains made in the Qingdao facility.
After the news broke out, MTRC categorically denied any dereliction of duty in the tender and defended its decision to award the contract to the Chinese manufacturer.
“To ensure high performance, stringent standards on safety and quality control have been enforced throughout the design and manufacturing stages and during train production, MTR staff members have been stationed at the factory to closely monitor the production process including manufacturing, assembly and testing procedures,” the company said.
Upon commissioning, the entire express rail link will reduce journey time between Hong Kong and Guangzhou from around two hours at present to roughly 48 minutes, whereas those for Beijing and Shanghai will be reduced from 24 and 19 hours to roughly 10 and eight hours respectively.
In the meantime, attention is focused on the contentious “co-location” arrangement for Hong Kong and mainland immigration and customs personnel. The SAR government will soon announce the details and seek endorsement from the Legislative Council.
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