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The Hong Kong MTR System

Updated on December 27, 2017
Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul has spent a lifetime travelling around East and Southeast Asia. He has visited Japan, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Laos, and Thailand.

The Hong Kong MTR System

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The Hong Kong MTR

When traveling to Hong Kong on your next vacation, you can save a lot of time and money by getting to know and taking the MTR (Mass Transit Railway.) During my trip to Hong Kong in April of 2015, I made extensive use of the MTR by riding trains between the airport and my hotel on Hong Kong, and by also taking the subway to different points in the greater Hong Kong area.

In this article, I first present a brief introduction to the MTR and then explain how to use the MTR. Examples are taken from my journeys on the Airport Express Railway and subway rides around the Hong Kong area during my April 13-16 vacation in Hong Kong.

Overview of Hong Kong MTR

The Hong Kong MTR today is one of the most profitable and efficient transportation systems in the world. In response to traffic congestion in the former British colony in the 1960s and 1970s, the first MTR line was opened in 1979. Today the Hong Kong MTR operates ten lines over 218.2 kilometers (135.6 miles) of rail running through Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, the New Territories, and Lantau Island. It has 155 stations which include 87 railway and 68 light rail stops. Daily ridership is 4.5 million.

The Hong Kong MTR which is operated by the MTR Corporation Limited achieves a 99.9 percent on-time rate. It has served as a model for newly built MTR systems in China and throughout the world.

Facts about the MTR are taken from Wikipedia.

The Airport Express Train

My first exposure to the Hong Kong MTR came after I landed at the Hong Kong International Airport on April 13, 2015. Our traveling party needed quick and reasonably priced transportation to our hotel on Hong Kong Island. We quickly found out that the Airport Express Train was the way to go.

The first thing we had to do was buy an Airport Express Train pass which we could use during our four days and three night stay in Hong Kong. Fortunately, the pass which we purchased allowed us round-trip travel from the airport to Hong Kong Island and unlimited travel on the MTR subway for three consecutive days (13th-15th.) The price for the pass was 300 Hong Kong dollars (about 40 US dollars), but 50 Hong Kong dollars was refundable after we returned to the airport.

After waiting no more than five minutes, an Airport Express train arrived in the area close to where we claimed our baggage after passing through Immigration.

I was immediately impressed by the size, cleanliness, and comfort of the train cars. There was ample space for storing luggage, and the seats were very big, wide, and extremely comfortable.

Before reaching our destination on Hong Kong Island, the train made two brief stops at Tsing-Yi and Kowloon. At each stop, arrival announcements are made in Cantonese, Chinese Mandarin, and English. Finally, after a very smooth journey of only about 35 minutes, we arrived at the Hong Kong station.

Inside an Airport Express Train

Riding Airport Express Train to Kowloon

The Hong Kong MTR Subway System

The Hong Kong MTR subway system is one of the largest in the world. What struck me the most was the size of most stations and the amount of walking and taking of stairs and escalators necessary to reach departure areas and exit gates.

For example, the Hong Kong Airport Express train station is co-located with Central Station on the Hong Kong Island blue line. Nevertheless, when I connected from the Hong Kong Station to Central Station, I had to walk at least 5-10 minutes and go down three levels by escalator to get to departing trains.

After arriving at your destination station, it is necessary to take the correct exit to avoid wasting time in getting to your destination. Fortunately, there are listings of streets and tourist areas next to each exit.

Bring good walking shoes, and definitely be prepared to do a lot of walking in the subway stations. I personally feel that the subway is not friendly to the elderly and handicapped persons.

If you are able to read either English or Chinese and have a stored value card or pass, the subway is actually easy to use. At all departure and arrival gates, you insert your card into a slot on a card reader and then go through a turnstile.

Map of the Hong Kong MTR System

Source

Subway Lines in the Hong Kong MTR System

The Hong Kong MTR system now has 10 lines which are identifiable by terminal stations and color. While on our vacation, I rode four of the lines to various places around Hong Kong. In this section, I will summarize the names and colors of all lines, emphasizing the ones that I personally rode.

1. The Airport Express or Green Line

The Green Line has terminal stations at Asia World Expo and Hong Kong. Between Asia World Expo and Hong Kong, the train makes stops at the airport, Tsing Yi, and Kowloon. At Tsing Yi, you can connect to the Orange Line, and at Kowloon connect to both the Orange and Violet Lines.

2. Island Line or Blue Line

The Blue Line runs across Hong Kong Island with terminal stations at Kennedy Town and Chai Wan. The main interchange station on the Blue Line is at Central which connects to the Red and Orange Lines as well as the Airport Express. I often rode the Island Line between Central and Sheung Wan where my hotel was located.

3. The Tung Chung or Orange Line

The Orange Line has terminal stations at Hong Kong and Tung Cheng on Lantao Island. It has interchanges at the Kowloon, Nam Cheong, Lai King, Tsing Yi, and Sunny Bay stations. Riders getting off at Sunny Bay get on the Pink Line for traveling to Disneyland Resort. Many people also go to Tung Chung to catch the cable car up to Ngong Ping Village and the Po-Lin Monastery and Taian Tan giant Buddha statue.

4. Tsuen Wan Line or Red Line

The Red Line is one of the major lines from Hong Kong into Kowloon. Terminal stations are at Central on the Blue Line and Tsuen Wan. Many tourists ride the Red Line to shopping areas in Kowloon such as Tsim Sha Tsui, Yao Ma Tei, and Mong Kok. At the Lai King station, you can also transfer to the Orange Line bound for Tung Chung.

5. Light Green Line or East Rail Line

The East Rail Line runs across eastern Kowloon. Terminal stations are at Yao Ma Tei and Tiu Kong Leng.

6. Violet Line or West Rail Line

The West Rail Line runs from Kowloon to the western part of the New Territories. Terminal stations are at Hung Hom in Kowloon and Tuen Mun in the New Territories.

7. Light Blue Line

The Light Blue Line operates from Hung Hom in Kowloon to Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau in the New Territories.

8. The Disneyland Resort Line or Pink Line

The Pink Line runs from Sunny Bay co-located on the Orange Line to the Disneyland Resort.

9. The Purple Line

The Purple Line runs from North Point or Quarry Bay on the Island Line to Po Lam and LOHAS Park in Kowloon.

10. The Brown Line

The Brown Line operates from Tai Wai on the Light Blue Line to Wu Kai Sha in the eastern part of the New Territories.

Riding the Red Line of the MTR into Kowloon

Summary

Hong Kong, for sure, has taxis and double-decker buses. However, if you want to save time and money, it is essential to understand and use the Hong Kong MTR system. Good luck using the MTR on your next trip to Hong Kong.

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© 2015 Paul Richard Kuehn

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    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      3 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Yes, Larry, I was very impressed with the Hong Kong MTR and found it to be the best MTR I have experienced. I'm very happy you liked this hub.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      3 years ago from Oklahoma

      It's my understanding that the Hong Kong MTR is top notch.

      Great article.

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