The Second Railway Development Study (RDS-2), which commenced in March 1998 will take 18 months to complete. While the final recommendations will only be available in late 1999, interim findings are made available at an earlier time. This interim report summarizes the key findings of the first eight months of study relating to the rail network assessment, the role and functions of the potential new lines and the broad direction for future network development.

Railway Development Strategy

2. In December 1991, the Government engaged consultants to carry out the first Railway Development Study (RDS-1) to investigate and establish a railway development programme up to 2011. RDS-1 was completed in 1993. Based on the findings of RDS-1 and taking into account views expressed by members of the public on the study, the Railway Development Strategy (the Strategy) was formulated and announced in December 1994.

3. The Strategy provided the broad framework for the development of Hong Kong's railway network, and identified three priority projects for early implementation, namely the West Rail (formerly known as the Western Corridor Railway), the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) Tseung Kwan O Extension, and the Ma On Shan to Tai Wai Rail Link (which is to couple with an extension of the Kowloon-Canton Railway (KCR) from Hunghom to Tsim Sha Tsui). These three priority rail projects (as shown in Figure 1) are being planned for completion between 2002 and 2004.

4. The Strategy also recommended a number of longer term rail proposals, the implementation of which is subject to further land use decisions and infrastructure developments.

The need for RDS-2

5. Since the completion of RDS-1 in 1993, there have been significant changes to the planning context within which the study was conducted:
  1. RDS-1 was based on a total territorial population of 6.4 million by the year 2011. Following the 1996 Population By-census, the population projection has been revised upwards to 7.8 million by the year 2011 and 8.2 million by 2016. Together with changes in population distribution and employment characteristics, these increases in population will mean a substantial demand for additional transport infrastructure, especially rail-based transport.

  2. The Government has set new strategic policy objectives regarding an enhanced housing programme. In order to help achieve this new policy objective, it is necessary to plan ahead for the provision of adequate infrastructure, and to accelerate the construction of certain rail projects to facilitate accessibility to new growth areas.

  3. There is a need to enhance the cross-boundary passenger and freight transport links with the Mainland. Since mid-1996, cross-boundary passenger traffic has been increasing rapidly. The average daily traffic through Lo Wu is now constantly in the range of 180,000 to 200,000 passengers. With economic and social activities between the Mainland and Hong Kong becoming more closely linked, the enhanced role of cross-boundary rail passenger and freight services will need to be carefully considered and re-defined.

  4. The Government and the two railway corporations have initiated various strategic planning studies to address problems arising from the forecast increase in population and economic growth. These studies have shed light on the future development of Hong Kong's transport system (including railways) and need to be followed up.
6. As a result of these changes, there is a need to undertake a second railway development study in order to formulate a clear, coherent and comprehensive strategy for the provision of an efficient, safe, reliable and commercially viable rail system. Such a system is essential to sustain the economic, social, land and housing development of Hong Kong up to 2016. As a result, the Government has commissioned a consultancy study on RDS-2 in March 1998.

Objectives of RDS-2

7. RDS-2 will re-examine the rail proposals recommended in RDS-1, investigate other new proposed schemes and recommend a railway system which is able to :-
  1. relieve bottlenecks in the existing railway system;

  2. facilitate timely accessibility to strategic growth areas for housing and economic development, and to stimulate further developments along rail corridors; and

  3. meet cross-boundary passenger and freight demands and to ensure compatibility and integration with the railway systems in the Mainland.
8. Railways, being efficient and environmentally friendly carriers, are able to provide speedy, comfortable and reliable services, and reduce road congestion and the environmental problems associated with road traffic. In line with Government's policy of according priority to railways which will form the backbone of the public transport network, RDS-2 will also examine ways to increase the share of rail in the overall transport system. This will help support a sustainable transport system.

Scope of the Study

9. RDS-2 has three main elements:
  1. A Network Development Study (NDS) examining the long term railway requirements of Hong Kong under different planning scenarios. The NDS will include the necessary studies on transport planning and modelling, land use and development, railway system and engineering, economic and financial appraisals. In addition, the NDS will also include a Strategic Environmental Assessment as part of the comprehensive evaluation of different network development options, to ensure that environmental considerations are fully integrated into the network expansion strategy so that environmental benefits are maximised and adverse environmental consequences are avoided.

  2. A series of Topical Studies of specific important issues, including

    • a Network Constraints Study (NCS) identifying bottlenecks in the rail system and measures to relieve them;

    • a study of options for a fourth rail crossing of the harbour;

    • studies of cross-boundary passenger and freight traffic; and

    • an assessment of the need for and feasibility of establishing a Mass Transportation Centre .

  3. An Institutional Study examining the existing institutional arrangement of railway development and operation. It will include investigation of the following issues:

    • the fare-demand relationship and the possibility of fare integration for different railway systems;

    • the feasibility of setting unified standards for railways in terms of design and quality of services;

    • the various funding methods and options for implementing railway projects; and

    • the scope for fast-tracking the railway development process.

The Third Comprehensive Transport Study

10. The Third Comprehensive Transport Study (CTS-3) is a strategic transport study providing a framework for the planning and prioritising of our future transport requirements up to the year 2016. CTS-3 will be completed in mid-1999. Among other things, CTS-3 will provide in broad terms the strategic corridor requirements for transport infrastructures. RDS-2 will make reference to the findings of CTS-3 and the two studies are being closely co-ordinated to ensure that the assumptions adopted are compatible.

Sub-regional Development Studies

11. As follow-up to the Territorial Development Strategy Review (TDSR), a number of Sub-regional Development Studies for the Northwest New Territories (NWNT), Northeast New Territories (NENT), Northshore Lantau and Hong Kong Island South are being carried out by various Government departments. These studies will provide insight into the feasibility of the various strategic growth areas identified by TDSR. The findings of these studies will provide important indications on the timing for the strategic growth areas. RDS-2 needs to take into account the various land use proposals from these studies in order to recommend supportive railway network expansion plans and programmes.


12. In May 1998, based on the results of the 1996 By-Census, the Planning Department produced three updated land use scenarios for planning purposes for 2016 based on population of 8.2 million (Scenario 1), 8.9 million (Scenario 2) and 10.1 million (Scenario 3). Much of the future growth in population will take place in Tseung Kwan O, the NWNT, NENT and Lantau. However, employment is forecast to remain concentrating on Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, thus giving rise to the need for increased long distance travel for which rail is particularly suitable. Figure 2 shows the broad distribution of population and employment under the various scenarios.

13. RDS-2 has so far reviewed the implications of the three population scenarios to identify the likely long term requirements. In the next stage of the Study, a number of potential strategic development scenarios will be explored. They include:
  • strategic growth areas identified in the on-going Sub-regional Development Studies,

  • implications of reduced harbour reclamation,

  • additional strategic housing development on Lantau, and

  • additional strategic development in the Northern New Territories near the boundary.

14. A two-fold approach to the Study has been adopted. This includes
  • a "bottom-up" assessment when the loading situation of the existing railway network is being assessed and bottlenecks identified; and

  • a "top-down" assessment of the longer term network requirements using 2016 population projections.
The combinations of the two sets of assessment will be used to derive the preferred network expansion plan and the development sequence.


(A) Cross-boundary Demands

15. For many years, the growth in the number of passenger trips at Lo Wu was at a steady rate of 6-8% per annum. However, the growth rate jumped to some 18-20% since mid 1996 and has remained at this high level ever since. This has placed great pressure on the immigration and customs facilities at the existing Lo Wu crossing, especially during holiday periods and weekends. This is currently the most congested part of Hong Kong's railway system, although there is adequate capacity on the East Rail train service to and from Lo Wu.

16. A branch of East Rail from Sheung Shui to a new boundary crossing point at Huanggang/Lok Ma Chau has been recommended to provide relief to Lo Wu. In October 1998, the Government invited the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation (KCRC) to submit a detailed proposal for implementing this project, which is presently targetted for completion in 2004. In the meantime, it is necessary to maximise the capacity of the existing Lo Wu crossing during busy periods by a combination of extended hours of operation and management systems to enhance the throughput of the existing facilities and by the use of a quota system at the East Rail stations.

(B) Domestic Demands
Present Situation

17. Within Hong Kong's domestic railway system, the Nathan Road section of the Tsuen Wan Line (TWL) has historically been the most congested section of the network. Over the past year, however, congestion on this section has reduced due to a combination of:
  • a new signalling system which has enhanced the capacity of the railway line,

  • the diversion of other passengers to competing bus services including express routes using the new highways in West Kowloon and the Western Harbour Crossing,

  • the diversion of some passengers to the recently opened Tung Chung Line (TCL), and

  • an overall reduction in travel demands due to the economic downturn.
18. The two railway corporations also have on-going programmes for service and capacity enhancements including:
  • rolling stock upgrading on East Rail;

  • enhancement work to stations along East Rail, at Kowloon Tong (the KCR/MTR interchange station), and MTR stations at Tsim Sha Tsui, Mong Kok, Quarry Bay, Wanchai and Causeway Bay ; and

  • signalling system upgrading on the MTR and KCR East Rail. As such, there are currently no significant capacity problems in the railway system.
After the Opening of the Committed New Railway Lines

19. Between 2002 and 2004, the RDS-1 priority projects (West Rail (Phase I), Tseung Kwan O Line (TKOL) and the Ma On Shan Line (MOSL) ) as shown in Figure 1 will come into operation. Additional traffic generated from these lines will put pressure on the existing railway network in the urban core and on the critical sections of the network. West Rail and MOSL will both feed additional passengers into the Nathan Road section of the TWL. While the extension of East Rail to Tsim Sha Tsui and the increased usage of the TCL will help relieve the Nathan Road section of the TWL, demands will eventually approach capacity in the next decade.

20. The TKOL will add substantial flows to the MTR harbour crossing between Yau Tong and Quarry Bay and feed additional passengers onto the Island Line (ISL) via the new interchange now under construction at North Point. The demand on the ISL will continue to increase as Tseung Kwan O New Town expands and population increases in the Eastern District and in the eastern part of Kowloon. The ISL is forecast to reach capacity before 2011.

21. Cross harbour rail travel is also anticipated to build up, particularly on the cross-harbour sections of the TWL and TKOL There is therefore a need to consider the implementation of a fourth rail harbour crossing (FHC).

The Implications of Population and Employment Distribution

22. The above network assessment has been based on the Territorial Development Strategy scenarios including new strategic growth areas and the reclamations in Central and Wanchai and in South East Kowloon. It has shown that the existing and projected future demands for rail transport are sensitive to the locational distribution of population and employment in these areas, where the employment level in the Central Business District will affect the peak hour loading on the principal rail routes.

23. Any changes in the location and scale of population and employment as a result of any change to the Territorial Development Strategy and of the public consultation now in progress on the reclamation proposals will affect the configuration and scale of the proposed developments. This will not only impact on the rail demand forecasts and the timing of onset of the identified bottlenecks, but also the commercial viability of the relevant railway proposals.


24. A number of potential new railway lines, which would relieve identified bottlenecks in the railway network or support development of the strategic growth areas, have been identified. They are shown in Figure 3 and are discussed below in paragraphs 25 to 40.

North Hong Kong Island Line

25. The North Hong Kong Island Line (NIL) was identified in the 1994 Railway Development Strategy as either an intermediate capacity or a heavy rail system depending on population and employment levels. However, on the basis of the now much higher population and employment forecasts, it would require a heavy railway.

26. The NIL, which is to run along the north shore of Hong Kong Island through the Central and Wanchai Reclamation, could be formed by extending the TCL eastwards from Hong Kong station and the TKOL westwards from North Point. The NIL is considered to be effective in relieving the ISL.

27. Two possible configurations are under study for the NIL. These include:
  • connecting the TCL and TKOL extensions via an interchange at Victoria Park, Exhibition or Tamar; and

  • the so-called "swap" arrangement whereby the extended TCL merges with the ISL in the Tin Hau/Fortress Hill area to run through to Chai Wan, while the TKOL connects with the ISL west of the Tin Hau/Fortress Hill area and runs through to Sheung Wan.
The "swap" option provides convenient through running of train services and has the benefit of being able to match the demands with capacities on relevant sections of the railway.

28. The implementation of the NIL is, however, affected by the Central and Wanchai Reclamation. The current objections from the public to the harbour reclamation may affect the programme and scale of the Reclamation project, which in turn may impact on the implementation of the NIL.

Kowloon Southern Loop

29. The committed East Rail extension from Hung Hom to Tsim Sha Tsui will improve the East Rail accessibility to the main commercial area of South Kowloon and provide a second interchange with the TWL, thereby helping to relieve the Nathan Road section of the TWL. The "Kowloon Southern Loop" is the rail link around the southern part of the Kowloon Peninsula between East Rail at Tsim Sha Tsui and West Rail at Yen Chow Street. This rail link will run through the proposed Kowloon Point Reclamation. The "Kowloon Southern Loop" would give further relief to the TWL and improve access to Kowloon for many KCR passengers. It would perform best if trains run through between East Rail and West Rail, but a number of technical issues would need to be resolved to make this possible.

30. The implementation of the "Kowloon Southern Loop" may be affected by the proposed Kowloon Point Reclamation.

East Kowloon Line

31. Following the relocation of the Airport, re-development of the Kai Tak site is being planned and Southeast Kowloon has been earmarked to accommodate a population of about 320,000 by the year 2016. According to the recommendations of the recently completed South East Kowloon Development Feasibility Study (SEKDFS), an East Kowloon Line (EKL) should ideally be in place by the end of 2007 when the population in the Kai Tak site should reach 130,000.

32. In this connection, the previously proposed route for the EKL in RDS-1, which takes the form of an isolated railway linking Diamond Hill and Hung Hom, may not be the most appropriate form for this railway line. It is necessary to consider how the EKL should be linked to a FHC or the rest of the railway system to form a new strategic railway corridor capable of enhancing the rail capacity across the harbour, relieving identified bottlenecks and bringing about a more even distribution of the flows on the rail network.

33. The implementation of the EKL is dependent on the South East Kowloon Reclamation. If the scale of the Reclamation is reduced and the 320,000 population on it cannot be realised, the existing population of the older districts in Kowloon City, San Po Kong and To Kwa Wan may not be able to support comfortably the proposed EKL to serve this area. Indeed, the alignment of the EKL as developed in the SEKDFS will need to be reviewed to accord with any possible changes of developments on the Reclamation.

The Fourth Rail Harbour Crossing

34. A number of options for the FHC have been identified including
  • extensions of the KCR East Rail from Hung Hom to either Victoria Park or Exhibition;

  • extensions of the KCR West Rail from West Kowloon to Tamar;

  • extensions of the MTR Kwun Tong Line (KTL) from Yau Ma Tei to either Victoria Park or Exhibition; and

  • a new EKL that runs from Diamond Hill via Hung Hom to either Victoria Park or Exhibition.
35. Preliminary studies suggest that the most promising options for the FHC involve either the East Rail or the EKL extension options, which are shown respectively in Figures 4 and 5. These options have advantages and disadvantages that need to be assessed further in the context of the longer term network development on either side of the harbour and the different planning and harbour reclamation scenarios.

36. As regards the landing of the FHC on Hong Kong Island, there are two options, namely, Victoria Park and Exhibition. The option to Victoria Park would mean a relatively short and inexpensive line. However, it may be difficult to achieve a satisfactory interchange with the ISL at either Tin Hau or Causeway Bay. In addition, the extra passengers from the FHC may lead to excessive overcrowding of the ISL platforms and trains. Under this option, Victoria Park would be disrupted by the construction and operation of the FHC station and its associated public transport interchanges. The alternative landing at Exhibition would enable the FHC to interchange with the NIL at Exhibition and with the ISL and TWL at Admiralty. While this option may attract more passengers and give more relief to other railway lines, it would be more expensive. In the next stage of the Study, the pros and cons of the two landing options will be further assessed.

Second Rail Link from Shatin to Kowloon

37. The second rail link from Shatin to Kowloon might be formed by extending the MOSL from Tai Wai to either Lai King (where it can interchange with the TWL and TCL) or Diamond Hill (to interchange or connect with the EKL). These two options are shown respectively in Figures 6 and 7. This second rail link is required to supplement the carrying capacity of the East Rail between Tai Wai and Kowloon Tong in order to cope with the planned population growth and development in the Northeast New Territories and Ma On Shan. However, with the signalling improvement and upgrading of rolling stock currently being implemented for East Rail, this second rail link is unlikely to be required before 2011.

38. KCRC has been contemplating carrying freight on East Rail by building a freight tunnel from Tai Wai to a Port Rail Terminal at Kwai Chung. The role of this freight tunnel may be upgraded to include also commuter service. In the next stage of the Study, the second rail link from Shatin to Kowloon will be considered in conjunction with the long term plan for the provision of cross-boundary freight service.

A Rail Link between NENT and NWNT

39. This may be in the form of the West Rail (Phase II) providing linkage between East Rail and West Rail through the northern part of the New Territories. Such a link will improve accessibility to the boundary crossing points at Lok Ma Chau and Lo Wu, and help to stimulate the development of the strategic growth areas along its corridor.

Other Rail Proposals

40. Other rail proposals including the West Hong Kong Island Line, South Hong Kong Island Line and the Outer Western Corridor will be considered in the next stage of the Study together with other possible new schemes developed during the network evaluation process.


41. The purpose of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is to integrate the consideration of environmental factors in the formulation of various railway development options and, through the application of strategic impact assessment, to avoid potential environmental constraints. A fundamental principle is to focus on conflict avoidance for future development work rather than relying on the more traditional approach of conflict identification and mitigation. To maximise conflict avoidance, it will be necessary to constantly review options and proposals to ensure that conflicts are identified at the earliest opportunity.

42. At this stage, the SEA has identified and defined the quantifiable environmental parameters and indicators for the assessment, and provided an indication of the potential environmental impacts arising from different railway corridors. A number of corridor options have been excluded due to their incompatibility with the established criteria, and the remaining options have been retained for further development and refinement.


43. The conclusions reached at this stage are summarised as follows:
  1. As regards cross-boundary rail service, there is an urgent need to provide relief to the congestion at Lo Wu. The Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau Spur Line, which is targetted for completion in 2004, should be able to achieve this purpose.

  2. As regards domestic rail service, there are currently no significant capacity problems in the existing railway system.

  3. With Hong Kong's continued economic growth and increase in population in the coming years, the MTR system, notably the Nathan Road section of the TWL and the Causeway Bay section of the ISL, may be stretched to its limits in the next decade.

  4. While developments in NWNT and Tseung Kwan O will bring additional patronage into the railway system in the urban area, the rail demand forecasts and the timing of onset of the identified bottlenecks are also dependent on the scale and programme of developments on the proposed Central and Wanchai Reclamation and the South East Kowloon Reclamation. The two reclamation projects will provide the requisite land for the building of transport infrastructures, housing and commercial developments. Should the scale of reclamation be reduced, the commercial viability of the relevant railway lines through the areas would be affected.

  5. A number of potential new railway lines including the NIL, Kowloon Southern Loop, the EKL, the FHC, the second Shatin to Kowloon rail link and a rail link between NENT and NWNT have been identified for further testing and evaluation.

44. In the next stage of the Study, the following studies will be undertaken with respect to network development.
  1. The potential new railway lines identified will be further evaluated.

  2. The Network Constraints Study will determine the most critical links and stations, and the timing requirement and phasing of new railway lines. This will help to set priority and sequence of development of the relevant railway schemes.

  3. The Network Development Study will develop the long term network and examine the implications of the different development scenarios for 2016 on the network options.

  4. The Strategic Environmental Assessment will proceed in tandem with the above studies to ensure that environmental considerations are fully reflected in the network development process.
These studies will work towards identifying the common components of a "Core" Network under a range of possible development scenarios. In addition to the "Core" Network, other potential lines will also be identified to address the requirements arising from other longer term development scenarios.

45. As regards the provision of cross-boundary services, in-depth assessment will be carried out on
  • an improved and more extensive inter-city train services as well as the number, location and scale of inter-city rail terminals (the need for a Mass Transportation Centre will be examined in this context); and

  • how best to provide for a freight link to the ports as part of an overall rail freight strategy.
46. The Final Report for RDS-2 is scheduled for late 1999.