INTRO: MTR Corporation’s Airport Railway will open next month to connect the centre of Hong Kong with Chek Lap Kok. The aim has been to make the link an extension of the airport, achieving seamless rail-air integration
BYLINE: Jack C K So
ON July 6 MTR Corporation will begin operating its Airport Express service to Chek Lap Kok, built on reclaimed land 34 km from the centre of Hong Kong. To serve the new site of the third busiest international airport in the world, MTR Corp is providing a dedicated, premium class service that will combine high speed with comfort and value for money.
Airport Express will initially operate every 8min between 06.00 and 01.00 daily. Trains will travel at speeds up to 135 km/h to achieve a journey time of 23min between Hong Kong and Chek Lap Kok, with intermediate stops at Kowloon and Tsing Yi. With Airport Express competing on speed, comfort and reliability as well as price, we expect the forecast initial ridership of 36000 passengers a day to increase to 82000 by 2011.
For its dedicated airport service, MTR Corp has taken delivery of 11 seven-car trains from an Adtranz CAF joint venture (RG 8.97 p512). One car in each unit will carry baggage checked-in by departing passengers before they board the train. The other coaches will each seat 64 in airline-style comfort, with seat-back videos displaying flight information as well as broadcasting tourist, entertainment and business programmes.
Passengers will be able to store baggage in one of eight racks in each car, with smaller items fitting under the seat. A Train Ambassador will be available to assist customers on board, and there is space in both end cars for wheelchairs.
Designed to higher standards than have previously applied on the MTR network, the stations on the route aim to create an airport environment. Architectural features such as generous use of natural light, same-level transfer between train and car or taxi, and provision of escalators and glass lifts where a change of level is required have been combined with service initiatives including customer service staff at all stations, free luggage trolleys and a porterage service. A left luggage service will also be available, in addition to executive class toilets, shops, restaurants and complete coverage for mobile phone and pager networks.
We aim to make Airport Express one of the most user-friendly systems in the world. At Hong Kong and Kowloon, in-town check-in facilities will be provided by airline ground handling agents, supervised by MTR Corp and available to all passengers presenting themselves at least 90min before flight departure.
From July 6, 28 check-in counters will be provided at Hong Kong and 33 at Kowloon, and we expect these figures to rise to 45 and 82 respectively as demand increases. Luggage checked-in at Hong Kong and Kowloon will travel by train in sealed containers to Chek Lap Kok, where sorting and x-ray screening will take place.
Boards and monitors will display flight information at Airport Express stations, for the benefit of ’meeters and greeters’ travelling to Chek Lap Kok as well as departing passengers. These displays will be linked in real time to the airport’s own flight information system.
The smooth operation of station access roads will be a major factor determining the success of Airport Express. We have agreed to take over their management and maintenance, creating the Transport Interchange Team to ensure the smooth flow of traffic, manage car parks and supervise loading/unloading areas for taxis, hotel and tour vehicles.
MTR Corp will also operate Hotel Shuttle coach services between Airport Express stations and around 20 major hotels on Hong Kong Island and southern Kowloon, with more routes considered should this venture prove successful. The aim of these value-added services is to provide maximum customer satisfaction to air travellers and other passengers, to achieve seamless road/rail/air integration.
Hong Kong, Kowloon and Tsing Yi stations will also be served by Tung Chung line commuter services, and Hong Kong provides interchange with MTR’s existing network as well as tram and bus services. The Octopus contactless smartcard system introduced to Hong Kong on September 1 1997 will be compatible with Airport Express ticket machines (RG 1.97 p53). Single tickets will be available, as well as day return tickets for ’meeters and greeters’ offering a substantial discount. o
CAPTION: Airport Railway stations at Chek Lap Kok (top) and Kowloon (above) have architecture which echoes airline styling
CAPTION: The Airport Railway will be worked by two fleets of EMUs. The AEL trains between the new airport and Hong Kong (left and below left) offer a luxury interior ambience, but the Tung Chung line sets (below) are designed for high traffic volumes
CAPTION: Between Kowloon and Chek Lap Kok, Airport line trains will also serve Tsing Yi, where a major office and residential development is taking shape around the station. Tsing Yi lies on an island between the Rambler Channel and Tsing Ma bridges
CAPTION: First of the three stations to be served only by Tung Chung line local services is Olympic (above), serving the Tai Kok Tsui area. This was handed over to MTR Project Director Russell Black (below right) by Hip Hing Construction Co on April 1