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Wednesday, December 28, 2016, 15:25

MTR: Long-awaited South Island Line opens

By Wang Yuke and Dara Wang

MTR: Long-awaited South Island Line opens
The first train of the South Island Line at the South Horizons Station on Dec 28, 2016 saw a large number of passengers. The MTR’s South Island Line opened Wednesday morning. (Parker Zheng / China Daily)

HONG KONG – Locals and avid railway fans packed the first train of MTR ’s driverless South Island Line , which hit the tracks on Wednesday after being postponed twice.

The new line, running from South Horizon in Southern Island to Admiralty, began operation at 5:55 am, five minutes earlier than the usual operation time.

The train is fully automatic with no operator cabins attached to the front and rear part

As early as 4:30am, hundreds of local residents and railway enthusiast thronged the entrance of the South Horizons station on Ap Lei Chau, eager to grab a seat on the first train of the new line as the city’s latest transportation network expanded further.

Leo Chan, a Hong Kong Polytechnic University sophomore, took the train with five friends.

A resident in Ap Lei Chau, Leo welcomed the new line as it provided him an option to escape the usually congested Aberdeen Tunnel.

MTR: Long-awaited South Island Line opens
Graphic: Al ex Tang / China Daily

"I can come back home more frequently and invite friends to have home party," he said.

READ MORE: Mainland's 1st driverless subway line to open in HK

Consisting of three-car S-Trains, the new line runs seven kilometers, adding four stations – the Ocean Park, Wong Chuk-hang, Lei Tung and South Horizons – to the city’s public transportation network.

During peak hours, it can provide services to up to 700 passengers every 3 minutes.

The train is fully automatic with no operator cabins attached to the front and rear part. But MTR staff is deployed to stand by on the platforms to give passengers guidance in case of emergencies.

MTR: Long-awaited South Island Line opens
Graphic: Al ex Tang / China Daily
The whole journey of the new line costs HK$6.7 and is estimated to take 11 minutes, a remarkable deduction of the time consumed previously in passing through the congested Aberdeen Tunnel by bus.

The line’s first train on Wednesday arrived at Admiralty at 6:05 am, one minute earlier than forecasted.

Six minibus routes – 4M, 5M, 59A, 69A, 40M and 52 – connecting Wong Chuk Hang Station and Ocean Park Station, promote price discount for one year.

Passengers using Adult Octopus can enjoy price cut ranging from HK$0.3 to HK$1 per trip.

Taxi Driver Lee Tin-yi said he only had two pickups in the morning, two down from his previous mornings. He said he would consider less driving to the Ap Lei Chau to look for orders.

It takes some 10 minutes to walk from Exit A of Lei Tung Station to the port to take boats to Aberdeen or Tin Wan. The some 3-minute trip, which normally accommodates 30 passengers at a time, charges HK$2.2 for adult and HK$1.2 for children under 12.

A boat operator surnamed Chan told China Daily that the prices have been fixed for years and will not increase recently.

MTR: Long-awaited South Island Line opens
Passengers on board the first train of the South Island Line at the South Horizons Station on Dec 28, 2016. (Parker Zheng / China Daily)
The South Island Line was initially scheduled to operate by December last year. But the MTR announced in 2014 that the launch would be pushed back by six months. This was due to difficulties in excavating at Admiralty Station. Last year, the opening was postponed again.

CHNAGES THE NEW LINE BRINGS

With the opening of the South Island Line, the city’s metro rail service now covers all the 18 districts.

It also made Admiralty station a multi-intersection of metro lines as the Tsuen Wan Line, Island Line and South Island Line meet at the station. The Shatin to Central Link, which is expected to start services in 2019, will also be connected to Admiralty.

It is expected that the new line would draw more visitors to the Ocean Park as it takes just four minutes from Admiralty.

The park recorded a deficit of HK$241.1 million for the 2015/16 fiscal year, the biggest in almost 30 years, mainly due to a sharp drop in attendance.

With the opening of the new MTR line, long queues of commuters at the South Horizon bus station was not seen this morning.

According to the latest census by Hong Kong's Census and Statistics Department, the Southern District accommodates a total population of 278,655.

With the South Island Line opened on Wednesday, MTR has 10 lines running through the city, one Airport Express and a Light Rail system that serves the New Territories West, within Tuen Mun District and Yuen Long District. Covering 230.5 kilometers, the MTR transportation network provides 19-hour service to around 4.6 million passengers every day in 2016 on an average, according to the MTR data.

Before this latest line, MTR opened the Disneyland Resort Line on Aug 1, 2005, one in the past 11 years.

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