Hong Kong MTR System – In the event of an EMERGENCY…

Correct me if I’m wrong.


I haven’t been to every single metro subway systems around the world but just a few: London Underground Metro/Subway, New York MTA Subway, San Francisco Bart, Washington D.C. Metro, Chicago CTA, Hong Kong MTR and maybe the Tokyo JR when I was a little kid (don’t remember on this one).

London Underground Metro/Subway



New York MTA Subway



San Francisco BART (in Mario and Luigi’s World… LOL!)



Washington D.C. Metro



Chicago Metro (“The Loop” Section)



Tokyo JR Railway



Having lived in Hong Kong for so many years, my early age and the past decade or so – I’m most familiar with Hong Kong’s MTR.

MTR’s first train inaugurated in 1985 with the Island Line.  I still remember on TV clips vividly the train went through a opening ceremony banner.  Through the years, the MTR has grown to meet the needs of Hong Kong, with new routes/lines and extension of existing routes/lines further.  There were many enhancements since then.  A truly international standard metro system.




I’ve been on it since I was aged-11 and I’ve noticed a few things on the MTR in relation to city/urban planning of Hong Kong:

  • Take a look at the following metro systems around the world.  I just picked a few that do have a large population within the metropolitan area.  ALL of these metro systems have: PARALLEL TRACKS with OVERLAPPING STATIONS; OR CIRCULAR TRACKS that links to ALTERNATIVE TRACKS dispersing into outskirts or suburbs of the metropolitan area.

Frankfurt U-Bahn



Paris Metro



Bangkok Rail Transit



Taipei Metro



Rio de Janeiro Metro


  • The parallel or circular tracks are usually at the core/center of the metropolitan area where there is the highest amount of traffic to ease the number of passengers during peak hours.
  • To my understanding, Hong Kong’s MTR DOES NOT have parallel lines (except the Airport Express Line and Tung Chung Line.  However, the Tung Chung Line is probably the LEAST number of passengers transported within the entire system?)
  • If you look at this photo below, the congestion level at certain core/center MTR stations and trains are literally ‘packed like a tin of sardines’.  Well, most people have lived with this congestion for years, me included.  However, does anyone remember a sarin gas attack incident in Tokyo metro station in 1995?  AND the London Underground bombing in three separate trains in 2005?



As safe as you may think.
Let’s picture a worst case scenario:

  • Peak rush hours at 6:00PM where everyone is getting off work.  The most congested stations are Hong Kong, Central, Sheung Wan, Admiralty, Wan Chai, Causeway Bay, Tsim Sha Tsui, Mongkok.  If something like a sarin gas attack or a bomb threat in multiple stations happen…
  • The Central and Hong Kong; the Tsim Sha Tsui stations has expanded through the years to a point where it’s like a labyrinth.  Unless you’ve been around and familiar with all the exits, you are moving with swarms of passengers in every direction.  With the amount of advertising billboards and it’s not just the billboards; when I was there – the amount of decals that can cover every single wall – floor to ceiling and everywhere in the trains.  As if I could clearly read signage and navigate correctly.  Due to platform changes and paid/unpaid areas to ease street level pedestrian traffic, above waist level barriers are erected here and there.  In an emergency situation, great if I’m an athlete who can jump hurdles, but if i’m in a wheelchair… I’m ‘BEEEEEP’ED’!!!


  • Years gone by and as I’ve said the MTR Corporation and the Hong Kong Government has enhanced the system – but never thought carefully in situations of an emergency.  As mentioned earlier, there’s no parallel or circular lines.  In the event of a bomb threat attack during rush hour.  What is the fastest rate to disperse the highest amount of passengers within the given set of the stations in the previous point?  Sorry to say this, but since it’s single track, with given electronic train signaling system – there’s only so many trains you an push through as one train has to completely depart a station and have passed X-number of markers before you can send another train out to prevent collision.  There’s not really an alternative parallel tracks with overlapping stations that the train depot can increase frequency to ease the flow of passengers.


  • Surprisingly enough that there’s the added safety of screen doors to ‘protect’ passengers from falling into the tracks.  Well, did you know that in a metro tunnel, there’s airflow within the tunnels that allows air intake and exhaust to normalize the pressure differences.  With the screen doors implemented, were the HVAC (Heating Ventilation Air-Conditioning) systems been revised to compensate ventilation needs?  In the event of a sarin gas attack at peak rush hour, if it was me, I’d run as fast as I could into the tunnels to grasp a bit of oxygen as I believe that all trains are ceased to operate?  How on Earth am I going to break the screen doors?  I think i’ll need to carry a walking stick or cane next time I’m in Hong Kong.  Or else, I’ll be destined to be trapped like a lab mouse with no where to go but die – not in a pleasant way whatsoever.


  • Oh, while on the screen doors, see the below photo.  The trains sometimes doesn’t even stop at predetermined markers of the screen doors.  What’s up with that?  So, is it completely electronically controlled and monitored?  What if the train operator has to override the electronic system to manually operate.  How accurate are the train operators to stop exactly at the screen doors?  Um, what if the train operator completely missed by half a screen door?  Does the system allow the train to go on reverse gear to back up?  And does the screen doors are programmed to open separately when it detects there’s no section of a train is in front of the screen doors?  Does it have to all open or close at the same time?  (I don’t know how it works, just a question.)


  • Personally, I have been in stations where it’s cool on ground level (right before I came back to the United States).  I’ve worn quite a few layers.  I tend to rush around the city with the MTR.  Every time, I’m waiting for train in a station, I had to shed layers off or be stuffed with perspiration and stepping into a freakin’ freezing train cabin.


  • Now also look at the photo of this North Point station, which is on the Island Line.  One of the original set of stations since MTR’s opening.  This station is not extremely congested.  However, many subsequent stations has the SAME PLATFORM WIDTH.  So, as the access and egress of tunnels to platforms.  Most of these original set of stations never went through any changes except ‘face-lifts’.  When it’s ‘packed like a tin of sardines’, passengers are spilled into the connecting tunnels of platforms – even when there are platform assistants to ask passengers to move toward the end of the platform.  There are many so-called ‘enhancements and improvements’ from the MTR Corporation, but never any proposal to widen the platforms and the connecting platform tunnels?


  • Hong Kong MTR is the quickest, fastest way to get around town other than taking the taxi/cab provided there’s no traffic.  On that note, if you’re around the area of the the stations mentioned in  the first point above; you’re literally ‘BEEEEP’ED’… either way, you’re completely stuck in a jammed packed grid.  You’d better off walking…  If one argues that there’s a new coastal route being built along Hong Kong island, but the fact that you’re still stuck once you’re close to your destination point – you’re literally ‘BEEEEP’ED’… For example:  The Landmark / Hong Kong Land square, anywhere inward from Gloucester Road from Causeway Bay down to Sheung Wan (Macau Ferry).


  • Hong Kong MTR follows right behind the taxi/cab in terms of cost.  The cost of a trip that has to cross anywhere that requires a tunnel puts you about HKD $13.00 = USD $1.67, single journey.  On the New York MTA Subway network, it costs USD $2.50 = HKD $19.38, single journey – BUT, that’s a flat-rate that takes you anywhere within the local New York MTA Subway network.  I don’t know about you, it’s a much better deal that probably averages on a monthly basis for people like me who likes to go around the entire city.  I guess most of MTR’s profit and revenue are only entertaining the ‘NEEDS’ of the ‘EVER INCREASING RATE’ on the population of Hong Kong while it is diverting profits/revenues to residential projects and/or network expansion into China.


Photo Credits:





and from various other Google Images search on ‘Hong Kong MTR Station Platform’, Specific city ‘Metro System Maps’.