The Airport Railway

The Airport Railway is the first-ever purpose-built railway for airport service. The $35.1 billion Airport Railway consists of two lines, the high speed Airport Express Line (AEL) and the domestic Tung Chung Line (TCL).

The AEL has 4 main stations: Hong Kong, Kowloon, Tsing Yi and the Chek Lap Kok Terminal (Ground Transportation Centre). The TCL connects Tung Chung New Town on Lantau Island with stations at Tsing Yi, Lai King, Tai Kok Tsui (Olympic), Kowloon and Hong Kong. The AEL has 8 km of rail constructed in tunnels, 6 km on elevated structure and 20 km on grade, for a total of 34 km. The domestic and airport lines share the same tracks for 90% of the total railway.

Hong Kong Station is the focus of the development and is connected with the existing MTR Central Station via a 450-metre air-conditioned subway link. The Hong Kong Station project was completed in just 36 months. This fast-track work employed a top-down construction method. After the diaphragm wall was constructed with the piling in place and the ground floor slab cast, the contractor then went ahead with the top-down excavation beneath the slab. Superstructure construction commenced at the same time.

The 6 ha Kowloon Station is situated on 14 ha of reclaimed land and has an approximate plan area of 60,000 sq m. The foundation required the installation of over 1,000 1.2 m-2.5 m diameter reinforced concrete piles with a recorded depth of up to 105 m.

Further north on the West Kowloon Reclamation, Olympic Station is a simple, above-grade structure with the train tracks running above ground. The building utilises a high degree of glazing to allow natural light to penetrate throughout. A series of footbridges link the station to transport connections, recreation and community spaces, in addition to commercial and residential developments.

Lai King Station station provides a link between the TCL and the existing MTR system and is an extension to the existing MTR Lai King Station. The new station consists of a wide, vaulted roof above a solid envelope finished in alternating bands of light and dark granite. The internal areas of the new and existing buildings are fully integrated with convenient cross-platform interchange between the two train lines.

Tsing Yi Station is an important station serving the fast-growing area of Tsing Yi Island. Due to its gigantic size, the 300,000 sq m station was divided into 10 zones during the construction stages. Tsing Yi Station is embedded within the complex podium where housed the largest shopping centre in the district. The property development above will provide a residential community to about 10,000 residents.

To be developed in three phases, Tung Chung New Town is the MTRC's largest property development project in terms of both site area and population. Tung Chung Station is the terminus of TCL and occupies a central position in what will eventually be a suburb of the new town.

The Chek Lap Kok Terminal (Ground Transportation Centre) provides direct access to the airport terminal building for passengers arriving at or departing the airport by road or rail. At the highest level is a 468-metre departure kerb for passengers arriving by taxis or private cars. The next level down is the Airport Railway departure platform; below that is the platform for arrival passengers. Direct access to the passenger terminal building will be provided by three post-tensioned link bridges.

This series of photos illustrates major sequences during the construction of the stations and related developments.


The Rail Link to Chek Lap Kok

The 14 m glass wall along the facade of Hong Kong Station. The glass wall provides views and natural light to the entrance hall of the station.

Excavation using the top-down method from the first slab downward. At this stage, the slab was supported by steel stanchions rising from the bore pile in soil below.

The first structural slab of Hong Kong Station. Since the substructure of the station was constructed using the top-down method, this slab acts as a supporting and dividing plate. From this slab onward, substructure working into the ground and the superstructure proceeding upward as usual, was carried out at the same time.

The Central Reclamation, where the Hong Kong rail station of the Airport Railway is situated. From this bird's eye position, the early stages of excavation for the connecting tunnel, diversion of the sewer, pedestrian bridges, as well as the foundation works for other future developments, can also be seen.

Hong Kong Station: overhead view. At this stage, the main structure of the station had been completed, while the laying of the titanium cladded roofing was still in progress. The foundation work for the 88-storey commercial/hotel complex, part of the Central Reclamation development, can also be seen on the left corner of the site.

Close-up of the curvy titanium roof of Hong Kong Station.

The splendid falsework system erected to carry out the formwork for the podium deck above the entrance hall of Kowloon Station.

The construction status of the Kowloon Station in May of 1996. The first structural slab is just being cast, to facilitate construction of the basement substructure further below using the top-down method.

Hong Kong Station at Central and Kowloon Station are two airport stations with check-in and luggage handling services. The conveyor system shown here is the luggage-handling facility leading from the airline check-in counters to the railway platform of the Airport Express Line.

The 22 m headroom, the 4 curvilinear skylights
atop, and the pairs of long escalators are the
main features of the spacious Kowloon
Station entrance hall.

A 900 m connecting tunnel linking the airport railway from Kowloon Station to the cross-harbour immersed tube. This section of tunnel was constructed using the cut-and-fill method due to the abundance of working space on this newly reclaimed land.

Close-up of the horn-like ventilation structure of the Kowloon Station before aluminium cladding panels are attached to it as the final finish.

Exterior view of the two-level podium structure of Kowloon Station. The "spaceship" hood is the podium-level entrance to the station. It also houses the skylights which provide natural illumination to the Entrance Hall located immediately below.

This whale-like structure is the ventilation building for the tunnel of the airport railway on the southern tip of the West Kowloon reclamation. It houses the ventilation fan units, as well as two sets of flood gate as emergency controls for the cross-harbour immersed tube.

The 80-ton flood gates at their normal uplifted position in the housing chamber above the tunnel section. It is located about 90 m from the immersed tube.

The interior of the upper platform during the final finishing stage. The two-level station at Lai King will provide an interchange between the MTR Tsuen Wan and the Tung Chung lines. Passengers can step out from the train and conveniently jump onto the next train at the opposite platform in order to change lines.

Lai King Station as viewed from track level.

The exterior of Olympic Station looks a bit yellowish in a winter afternoon facing the setting sun. The aluminium panels cladding the external surfaces are the common design for most stations of the Airport Railway.

Exterior view of the Airport Railway Tai Kok Tsui (Olympic) Station. Since it is located in the middle of the West Kowloon Expressway, elevated pedestrian facilities are provided to link the station with future developments nearby.

Exterior view of Lai King Station showing the elegantly curved roof and the row of skylight windows.

The construction of Tsing Yi Station in mid-1995. The station is situated within a six-level podium structure covering 5.4 ha. The majority of the podium space will be used for retail and commercial purposes. There are 12 residential blocks on top of the podium which are jointly developed by the MTRC and a private developer.

By the end of 1996, the main podium structure of Tsing Yi Station had basically been completed. As can be seen, the linking bridge of the Airport Railway across the Rambler Strait was still under construction.

The Tsing Yi Station complex as seen in April 1998 with the construction of the residential blocks in full progress. Note the noise barrier hood erected over the track rail at the station outlet/inlet position.

Exterior view of the Ground Transportation Centre. This station, together with Tai Kok Tsui (Olympic) Station, are the simplest in terms of facility provision among all the Airport Railway stations.

The large parabolic-shaped glazed skylight is one of the eye-catching features of the Ground Transportation Centre. The GTC has three linking bridges that provide convenient access for passengers entering or exiting from the Airport Terminal Building.

Interior view of the Tai Kok Tsui (Olympic) Station platform. Note the automatic door on the right and the control mechanism and circuitry above it.

A mock-up installation of the false ceiling section on a platform inside Hong Kong Station.

Interior of the Kowloon Station platform at its earlier stage.

The platform and track rail inside Lai King Station. The automatic door (except for the guide rail above) was still not erected in position at this stage. Another feature of this station is the role of skylights above the track; they provide comfortable natural illumination inside the station.

An interior view of the Tsing Yi Station platform.

Olympic Station is the only Airport Railway station with the track laid on grade. The track of all other stations are either laid under or above ground.

The underground tunnel system of the Airport Railway consists of complicated interchanges which allow tracks to cross each other and change levels. The tunnel section shown in this photo is typical; it is located between Kowloon Station and the ventilation building before the immersed section under the harbour.

Special welding equipment was mounted on a train car and used to weld-join the track rail. This photo was taken inside the immersed tunnel section under the Victoria Harbour.

Laying the track rail for the airport railway: the rail (temporarily aligned and secured by precast blocks) will be further embedded in a reinforced concrete curb. The work as seen here is the formwork arrangement, prior to the concreting which forms the curb for the track. There are several methods of laying the track rail according to different requirements; this is only one of the standard methods for elevated sections.

The railway section on the western side of the Tsing Yi Station, partly on grade and partly elevated, enters a 1.1 km tunnel before reaching the Tsing Ma Bridge. The re-bar arrangement and the precast concrete blocks for anchoring the track rail can be seen here.

The track rail leading from the new Rambler Bridge into Tsing Yi Station. Precast concrete slabs are used in this section for the basic alignment and securing of the track rail.

The placing of precast slab before the laying of track rail, as seen inside the Ma Wan elevated bridge section.