Firefighters and a fake MTR station

Near the Hong Kong district of Tseung Kwan O is a MTR stop that you can’t catch a train to – Pak Shing Kok station at the Fire and Ambulance Services Academy.

When the first photos of Pak Shing Kok station started circulating in April 2016, confusion reigned.

Is there a mysterious new station on the MTR? Recently, multiple photos of the suspected MTR station platform appeared on Facebook, claiming to be the legendary MTR station that was secretly built but not open to the public, named Pak Shing Kok Station. The station platform shown in the photo is the same as the general MTR platform. The MTR network map is conveniently attached to the platform screen door, showing that Pak Shing Kok Station is located between Tseung Kwan O and LOHAS Park Station. There is also a MTR train near the station.

But it wasn’t a new station – just part of a new training facility opened by the Hong Kong Fire Services Department in March 2016.

Full of simulated accidents, such as collapsed buildings.

Car crashes.

Exploding petrol stations.

Road tunnel.

A 45.5-meter-long, 14-meter-wide, and 18-meter-high ship with four decks.

Jet airliner (A380 in front, B767 at the rear, and MD11 at the tail)

And a train.

With mockup interior.


Apple Daily photo

Alongside a MTR station mockup.


Apple Daily photo

Taking up 1,050 square meters.

All ready to catch fire!


Hong Kong Economic Times photo

But where did the train come from?

The SP1900 train at the Fire and Ambulance Services Academy is a real train:

When the KCRC purchased the SP1900 trains for the East Rail Line, lead carriage D201 was rejected due to a design error. It was originally intended to be returned to Japan but the transportation cost was high, so a replacement carriage was manufactured, with the ‘original’ D201 stored at Pat Heung Depot as a source of spare parts, until it was donated to the Fire and Ambulance Services Academy as a training vehicle.

A photo of D201 stored at Pat Heung Depot is here (source).

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A fire door for trains in the Tai Lam tunnel

I’ve written about the heavy steel gates used to protect the MTR cross harbour tunnels from flooding – but how about even bigger sets of gates used to protect them from fire?

Tuen Mun bound train approaches Austin Station

The longest railway tunnel in Hong Kong is the 5.5 kilometre long Tai Lam Tunnel, passing beneath the peaks of Tai Lam Country Park, on the West Rail line between Tsuen Wan West in Kowloon and Kam Sheung Road station in the New Territories.

The original plan was for a pair of single-track tube bored tunnels, with interconnecting cross passages every 250 metres for emergency evacuation, but a twin-track single tube with centre partition wall design was adopted due to it being simpler to construct.

To provide the same level of fire safety as two single track tunnels, a 300mm thick reinforced concrete centre partition wall was constructed to isolate the two, with fire rated sliding doors located every 60 metres to provide an emergency evacuation route.


Hong Kong Fire Services Department photo

But the biggest door was required for the crossover cavern midway along the tunnel, which allows the diversion of trains onto the other track.


BYME Engineering HK photo

Raymond Wong describes the door as such.

The track crossover opening in the partition wall is 52 metres long and 8 metres high. It is sealed by a large pair of sliding doors, each leaf measuring 27m long by 6m high (162 sq m surface area) and weighing 30 tonnes, which will provide 4 hour fire resistance period between tracks.

The crossover door installed will be one of only two systems of its kind in the world, the other being in the Channel Tunnel, between the UK and France.

The crossover door is normally closed during usual operation hours, but in the unlikely event of an emergency or for routine maintenance, it can be remotely controlled from Tsuen Wan West Station
which is located approximately 3.5km to the south of the crossover.

Operation of the door is interlocked with the automatic train operation systems to provide maximum safety, such that the door can only be in motion when the point device is locked and there are no trains on the track.

And they prove their worth

On 14 February 2007 a transformer caught fire atop a West Rail line train inside the Tai Lam Tunnel, requiring the emergency evacuation of 1,000 passengers from the train – completed without any major injuries or fatalities, thanks to the safety features of the tunnel.

Footnote: Channel Tunnel

The other underground crossover fire door is on the Channel Tunnel between Britain and France – the double track tunnel is divided up into six sections by two undersea crossover caverns 165 metres long, 22 metres wide and 15 metres high, with safe evacuation made possible thanks to the pair of sliding doors 33.5 metres long, 6.85 metres high and weighing 92 tonnes.

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Flood gates inside the MTR cross harbour tunnels

MTR trains passes beneath Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour through four immersed tube tunnels – but should one of these tunnels be breached, massive flood gates are ready to be deployed, to protect the rest of the network.

MTR train approaches Sheung Wan Station

They hide inside ventilation structures located beside the harbour.

MTR ventilation structure at West Kowloon

The engineering inside them quite complex.

Utilitarian function meets sculptural form at the Kowloon Ventilation Building (KVB), the first structure built on the West Kowloon waterfront. An underground railway depends on numerous supporting services typically housed in buildings more about function than flourish. But this prominent site on reclaimed land, highly visible from Hong Kong Island, demanded a different approach.

Sitting at the northern end of an undersea tunnel linking Central to the new Chek Lap Kok Airport, the KVB unites a technically complex brief within one unified, cost-effective, yet architecturally exciting building.

Aside from its eponymous purpose of ventilating the rail tunnels, the KVB houses a multitude of ancillary facilities including floodgates to protect the underground system, power supply, emergency access and egress, pumping and filtration systems for a seawater cooling system, and train sidings. Only one-third of the building is visible. The rest sits within a massive excavation that extends down to the tunnels.

And are tested regularly.

The 80-ton electrically operated flood gates at the West Kowloon can be deployed in two minutes, and is linked to the signalling system to prevent trains from approaching the blockage.

Similar gates are fitted to the Tsuen Wan line tunnel at Tsim Sha Tsui.

And six sets of flood gates are being installed on the new Shatin to Central Link tunnel.

They sure dwarf the flood doors found at MTR station entrances!

Flood doors at Jordan station Exit E leading to the Prudential Centre

Footnote

I assume that the Eastern Harbour Crossing also has floodgates protecting the rail network, but I can’t find any further detail.

Further reading

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A history of MTR train control centres

The MTR network has grown since the first train ran in 1979, and so has the systems used to control the network.

Down end of the crossing loop on the Disneyland Resort Line

The initial MTR system

In 1979 the first part of the Mass Transit Railway system opened, between Kwun Tong and Central.


Photo via Apple Daily

With a Central Control Room (CCR) established at Kowloon Bay Depot to manage the first trains.


MTR photo from 1979

The centre being expanded through the 1980s to control the Kwun Tong, Tsuen Wan and Island lines.


MTR photo from 1985

It was then upgraded to a computerised control system provided by CSEE Transport between late 1995 and 1998.

Kowloon Canton Railway

During the 1980s the Kowloon Canton Railway was electrified and modernised.


Photo by Joseph K.K. Lee / gakei.com

With a central signal control room opened at Hung Hom to manage trains on the railway north to Lo Wu.


Photo via 香港巴士論壇

In 1994 the KCR control room was moved to their new head office at Fo Tan.

The control systems also being upgraded.


Railway Technology photo

An expanding MTR network

The Lantau Airport Railway project was launched during the 1990s, but the MTR control room at Kowloon Bay was at maximum capacity.

Airport bound train passes Sunny Bay station

So the decision was made to build a new control centre at Tsing Yi station, big enough to incorporate all existing lines and future extensions.


MTR photo

The centre opened in 1998 to control the brand new Airport Express and Tung Chung Line, with the migration of the Kwun Tong Line, Tsuen Wan Line and Island Line being done in stages between 1999 and 2000, allowing the decommissioning of the Kowloon Bay centre.

Controlling an expanded KCR network

In 2003 the KCR opened the brand new West Rail line, running north from Kowloon.

Tuen Mun bound train approaches at Tin Shui Wai station

With trains being managed by a new control centre at Kam Tin.

The East Rail line was also expanded, with the Ma On Shan branch opened in 2004, followed by the Lok Ma Chau Spur Line in 2007 – but trains on these lines were managed by the existing KCRC Fo Tan control centre.

Passing a Tai Wai bound train on the Ma On Shan line

Rail merger

Following the 2007 MTR–KCR merger the decision was made to merge the operations of Hong Kong’s railways to a single control centre at Tsing Yi.


MTR photo

Work on the 超級車務控制中心 (“Super Operations Control Centre”) commenced in November 2012 with a HK$117 million upgrade of the ​​700 square meter main hall, featuring a 120 meter long ultra-high-definition screen. Control of the East Rail Line and Ma On Shan Line were handed over to Tsing Yi at the end of March 2013, with the West Rail Line handed over on June 23, 2013.

Today 170 employees are responsible for 24 hours operation of the centre.

Further reading

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Fire training simulator at Hong Kong Airport

Hong Kong International Airport is located on the island of Chek Lap Kok, with the 12.48 square kilometres covered with everything needs to support operations at one of the world’s busiest airports – including a fire training simulator.

Overview of Hong Kong International Airport

Two fire stations are located at the airport.

Airport fire station located in the airport midfield

Fire trucks at the ready.

With the training rig located next to the main fire station, on the southern side of the airport island.

Empty midfield of Hong Kong Airport

Made of steel, and ready to be set alight.

Fire training rig at Hong Kong International Airport

The Hong Kong Fire Services Department Airport Fire Contingent describe it as:

A fire training simulator with a fire screen is provided at the training pit near the Main Airport Fire Station for the training of AFC personnel.

The training facility is a steel fabrication representing a Boeing 747-400 series aircraft with a tail section having a high engine representing an MD 11 aircraft. The fuselage length is 25 metres and the wings are cropped beyond the inboard engines. The simulator can simulate various external and internal fire scenarios.

In addition, a fire screen is installed adjacent to the simulator to simulate an aircraft fire situation with intense heat.

And that’s not all!

The Hong Kong Fire Services Department have a second aircraft fire training rig at the Fire and Ambulance Services Academy in Pak Shing Kok.

Further reading

Hong Kong Fire Services Department Airport Fire Contingent website.

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