MTR Corp Ltd plans to deploy shorter trains, but at increased intervals, on the East Rail Line to help alleviate congestion in stations, lawmaker and former KCR chairman Michael Tien Puk-sun said yesterday.
The East Rail Line will gradually switch to nine-carriage trains - from 12 carriages - starting next year. Trains will arrive every two minutes during peak periods - compared to the current three minutes.
While there are concerns that a reduction in the number of carriages will add to the overcrowding in stations, Tien said the scheme will help resolve the issue.
"With 12 cars, they can only do a three-minute headway, which means only 20 cars in an hour," he said. "When it comes down to nine cars per train, they can increase the frequency from a three-minute headway to a two-minute headway."
Tien said there are only a few fixed locations for escalators in stations, and passengers getting off from the first or last car have to walk a long distance. So it takes some time for passengers to alight from a fully loaded train and go up to the concourse on the next level.
"If the dispersion has not happened and the next train comes along, it is no use. That's why there is a bottleneck in the headway for a 12-car fleet," he said. "So when they reduce it from 12 to nine, they actually increase the speed of dispersion."
The move will be implemented to prepare for the launch of the Sha Tin-Central Link.
By 2021, people will be able to take the East Rail to Admiralty as part of the "North South Corridor." However, as Hong Kong Island MTR stations have shorter platforms, the East Rail must switch to shorter trains.
The new nine-carriage trains will be progressively launched in the middle of next year, upon the commissioning of the "East West Corridor," which links the West Rail Line with the Ma On Shan Line.
There will be a period of mixed fleet operations by that time, with some trains having nine carriages, while others have 12 carriages.