The MTR, run by MTR Corporation, is the fastest, cheapest and most efficient way to travel around Hong Kong. The underground railway already provides a comprehensive service of the city’s multiple districts, but it has not finished growing yet.
The Shatin to Central Link (SCL) is a 17km-long railway line development. It will stretch the line from Tai Wai to Hung Hom and Hung Hom to Admiralty and will link a number of existing railway lines through the Hong Kong’s various districts.
The expansion will connect East West corridor to the existing Ma On Shan line (MOL) with the West Rail line (WRL), while the North South corridor will extend the East Rail line to Hong Kong Island. As a result, ten new stations are being built: six of these will become interchange stations. The Kai Tak, To Kwa Wan, Ma Tau Wai and Exhibition stations will be underground, while the Hin Keng station will be elevated.
The new line is expected to significantly reduce the travel time across East Kowloon, New Territories East and Hong Kong Island. There has been a considerable demand for this, and over one million passenger trips per day are expected to be made on the SCL by 2021. This will have a positive effect on the local economy because the new line will create about HK$4.1bn ($0.52m) worth of transport benefits in a year.
The SCL was first recommended in the Railway Development Strategy 2000. In March 2008, the executive council approved further planning and design propositions for the SCL. MTR Corporation and the government conducted public consultations for the design and construction of the SCL at the stage. In 2012, construction and operation propositions passed the Environmental Impact Assessment, and the project was authorised by the Chief Executive in council by March 2012. It was an important year for the company, as their funding was also approved and endorsed thanks to the finance committee of the legislative council.
Once legal requirements were met and approved, construction began. The first phase of the build was the Tai Wai to Hung Hom section. This section is close to being finished, and will be ready in 2018. The second phase includes the construction of Hung Hom to Admiralty. It is expected to be completed by 2020. The second phase is the larger of the two, as it will involve interface with other infrastructure projects, such as Wan Chai Development Phase II and Central-Wan Chai Bypass.
Numerous contracts have been issued for the project’s construction. Sun Fook Kong joint venture was selected to provide modification of Ma On Shan Line. Penta-Ocean Construction was contracted to build the Hin Keng station and approach structures as well as a new International mail centre. VINCI Construction Grands Projects were contracted for building the Hin Keng to Diamond Hill tunnels and Fung Tak Public Transport Interchange.
Sembawang Leader joint venture will provide for the Diamond Hill station extension. Chun Wo-SELI joint venture has been contracted to build the Diamond Hill to Kai Tak tunnels, while Kaden-Chun Wo joint venture was selected to construct the Kai Tak station and associated tunnels.
Other contractors selected for the construction of the SCL line include Concentric-Hong Kong River joint venture to provide Kai Tak Barging point facilities, and Samsung-Hsin Chong joint venture for the construction of stations and tunnels of Kowloon City section. The construction of Hung Hom North approach tunnels was awarded to Gammon-Kaden SCL 1111 joint venture, and the Hung Hom station and stabling sidings construction was contracted to Leighton Contractors (Asia).
The SCL line crosses a mixture of environments with diverse geologies, so various construction methods have been used. This helps with the smooth progress of the project, whether in an urban area or on sloping hillside. According to their Business Overview, the MTR Corporation aims to be ‘one of the most resource-efficient and ecologically sustainable railway and property service providers in the world.’ This means that they are committed to protecting important natural habitats around them whilst they build.
The project requires excavation for rail tunnels, stations, and pedestrian subways with tunnel boring machines (TBMs), drill and blast techniques, cut and cover, and immersed tube tunnel methods. The TBMs have been designed to perform diverse tunnelling works using less work area. Seven TBMs will be used for the construction of four tunnels in Kowloon and three tunnels in Hong Kong Island. In 2014, the first tunnelling work was implemented. This took place between the Ma Chai Hang and Diamond Hill station section.
The tunnelling in underground rocky sections will be completed by using the drill and blast method of construction in order to clear the obstructing rocks. This is mostly occurring in the Hin Keng and Ma Chai Hang playground, and the overrun tunnel from the south of Admiralty station.
In further tricky terrain, MTR Corporation are ambitiously tunnelling through the sea at Victoria Harbour, with a 1.3km line that is being created with the immersed tube tunnel method of construction. The tunnel will be constructed with precast immersed tube units of 150m length each.
All other stations on the SCL line except the Hin Keng station will be constructed using the cut and cover method.
The diversity of construction methods has encouraged MTR Corporation to reach out to many providers. MTR are working with a number of different contractors and suppliers, who have been able to assist with material provisions, design, construction and testing.
Changchun Railway Vehicles was awarded HK$1,140m ($147m) first contract for the design, supply, manufacture, testing and commissioning of 14 new eight-car trains. The trains are expected to be handed over for testing and commissioning by 2017 and will be operational by 2018.
The second major contract was awarded to Itochu-Kinki Sharyo-Kawasaki Consortium, who received HK$1,180m ($152.16m) for the design, manufacture, delivery, testing and commissioning of 36 new train cars. The scope of the contract also includes providing modification as well as reconfiguration of 348 train cars from the existing West Rail line, East Rail line and Ma On Shan line.
The reprovisioning works of NTS animal management centre and Shatin Plant Quarantine station was awarded to Kaden-Leader joint venture. The construction contract for pedestrian links and Pat Heung Depot modification works at Tsz Wan Shan was awarded to Paul Y Construction Company.
The contract for track work and overhead line modification works at Lo Wu and Pat Heung Depot was awarded to Chun Wo-Henryvicy-GTECH joint venture. The contract for track work and overhead lines, as well as EAL signalling system modification for SCL Phase I, was awarded to Alstom Hong Kong. Chun Wo Construction and Engineering will provide the platform modification and associated works at East Rail line, and Sun Fook Kong Construction was awarded a contract to provide police sports and recreation club enhancement works.
Kaden-Leader joint venture was awarded a contract for reprovisioning of Harbour Road Sports Centre and Wan Chai swimming pool. Hsin Chong Construction was contracted for SCL-Advance works for the North South Line (NSL).
Gilgen Door Systems was contracted to provide platform screen doors for SCL Phase I and Automatic Platform Gates (APG) retrofit for MOL. GTECH-KUM SHING joint venture provides power supply system and trackside auxiliaries for SCL Phase I. Otis Elevator Company (HK) will provide lifts for SCL Phase I and ThyssenKrupp Elevator (HK) won the contract to provide escalators for SCL Phase I.
Gammon E&M was contracted to provide building services for Diamond Hill and Hin Keng stations, Ma Chai Hang ventilation building, and Fung Tak Emergency access. Shinryo Corporation was contracted to provide building services for Hung Hom station and Hung Hom stabling sidings. Leighton M&E was contracted to provide building services for Kai Tak and To Kwa Wan stations, and ancillary building.
With many skilled workers on the project, it is making considerable progress: in fact, The Tai Wai to Hung Hom section of the Sha Tin-Central Link is 92 percent completed. This news is wonderful for the communities who rely on this route for work, business and leisure.
The Senior Civil Construction Engineer, Joe Chiu, spoke on this. He said:
“Our new railway projects will serve communities in different parts of Hong Kong. Therefore, we make every effort to maintain close contact with local communities to listen to their views and keep them informed of our progress.”
In just three short years, the expansion will be totally complete, ready to accommodate for an ever busy, ever growing Hong Kong.