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On The Line: The history of Hong Kong MTR Stations

We take a look at some fun facts and the history of our MTR stations

Written by
Time Out Hong Kong
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One of the things we love about Hong Kong is its convenience and efficient transportation.  Despite some disruptive incidents over this past year and the occasional annoying passengers we encounter on the trains, the MTR system is still well-loved by Hongkongers and it boasts a 99.9 percent punctuality record. During the normal run of things, the majority of Hongkongers rely on the MTR to get about the city every day, but how much do you truly know about the stations and its history? If you’re curious, read on to find out all the interesting facts and history. 

RECOMMENDED: The MTR system is constantly expanding. Here are three maps showing the possible future of the MTR

A history of Hong Kong MTR Stations

Lok Fu
Photograph: Shutterstock

Lok Fu

Lok Fu Station opened in 1979 as part of the very first MTR line that ran 15.6 km from Kwun Tong to Shek Kip Mei (now part of the Kwun Tong Line). Originally, the proposed name of the station was Lo Fu Am – meaning 'tiger crag' in reference to its location near Lion Rock. However, the word lo fu – meaning tiger – was deemed too inauspicious and unlucky according to Chinese beliefs. In light of this, it was decided that the name of the station should be changed to lok fu, which means 'joyous prosperity'. Lok Fu Station was therefore born as a herald of joy, peace, and prosperity to the neighbourhood it serves.

Fortress Hill
Photograph: Shutterstock

Fortress Hill

Fortress Hill Station is located on the Island Line, between Tin Hau and North Point stations. In 1880, British forces set up an artillery battery (that has since been demolished) on the hillside at Fort Street to safeguard the city from potential military threats. With the opening of the MTR’s Island Line over a century later in 1985, the station was named Fortress Hill in reference to the area’s history. The colour scheme inside the station is dark green, just like the hill for which it is named.

At just 480 metres, the distance between Fortress Hill and its closest neighbour, Tin Hau, stands as the second-shortest between any two stations in the MTR network – narrowly beaten by the distance between Mong Kok and Prince Edward on the Tsuen Wan Line. As far as internal infrastructure, there are only four escalators connecting the station’s concourse and platforms, and they are some of the longest among all MTR stations in Hong Kong.

A little-known feature of the station is the long staircase hidden near the edge of the eastern platform that once infamously played stage to sexual relations between a teenage boy and his underage girlfriend. Needless to say, a nut wasn’t the only thing that got busted on that occasion. Angel Hong

 

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Tsim Sha Tsui
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Tsim Sha Tsui

Originally opening in late 1979, Tsim Sha Tsui Station was among the first MTR stations to begin operations. It came after the extension of the very first MTR line a few months earlier connecting Kwun Tong and Shek Kip Mei stations (now on the Kwun Tong Line). By that time, the Tsim Sha Tsui area was already an important commercial centre, and the station has since grown with the district. Over the years, it has undergone various extensions to accommodate the large number of passengers that pass through it every day. You've probably seen the iconic station on the big screen, as it has been featured in two of Hong Kong’s most beloved films: It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World and Chungking Express. However, in 2017 the station made headlines after a 60-year-old man set himself alight in a suicidal act that injured 19 others. 

Admiralty

Admiralty

Standing on one of this station’s six platforms at 8am is a quintessential Hong Kong experience: thousands of commuters squeezing past each other in one of
the planet’s most densely populated spots. 
MTR planners chose to forgo the name Ha Wan – the old geographic and administrative division that Admiralty would once have resided in – and were instead inspired by HMS Tamar, the ship that existed as the British Royal Navy’s nearby floating headquarters from 1897 until after World War II. The station’s Chinese name, 金鐘, meaning ‘golden bell,’ is a reference to the bell that hung at the nearby Wellington Barracks (now known as Harcourt Gardens). In the 19th century, Admiralty was known as Scandal Point – the place where expat churchgoers gossiped after Sunday masses at St John’s Cathedral. Still the centre of political intrigue in Hong Kong, Scandal Point lives up to its name to this very day. Alan Chang

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Chai Wan

Chai Wan

Situated at the eastern end of the Island Line, Chai Wan is, perhaps surprisingly, one of the more notable MTR locales. The station opened in 1985 along with the rest of the Island Line’s original stops – a grouping that initially only stretched to Admiralty. For 30 years it held the record as the MTR’s southernmost outpost, an accolade Chai Wan was forced to concede once the South Island Line came into operation in 2016. Fans of the station can console themselves with the fact that Chai Wan remains unique for being the only station along its line with an elevated platform of the kind common along the Kwun Tong Line. Plans were examined in 2013 for extending the network over to Siu Sai Wan. However, complications regarding the line’s alignment and the need for a tunnel beneath Pottinger Peak mean Chai Wan is likely to remain the end of the line.

Diamond Hill

Diamond Hill

Diamond Hill is one of Hong Kong’s oldest MTR stations. Its coal black tiling is dotted with white tiles to mirror a sparkling diamond in obvious reflection of the station’sname. (Contrary to its glamourous moniker, the area has never been a gem of a neighbourhood and was once home to a significant squatter population.) A series of minor escalator accidents earlier this year underscores the station’s age. However, it’s getting a revamp as part of the new Sha Tin to Central Link, scheduled to open in 2019. The new platforms that will service the Sha Tin to Central Link trains have been decorated with larger diamond patterns that are hardly subtle. Commuters were unimpressed when the MTR revealed the designs earlier this year, with one online commentator declaring: “The ugliness has reached a new level.” Evelyn Lam

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Disneyland Resort

Disneyland Resort

The Disneyland Resort Line was the world’s first metro line designed to service a Disneyland theme park. It’s also the shortest MTR line in Hong Kong, just 2.4 miles long with only two stops: Sunny Bay and Disneyland Resort. Operating since August 2005, the Disneyland Resort Line is a convenient method for reaching the supposed ‘happiest place on Earth’ and there are a number of touches special to the line. Disneyland Resort station itself is a marvel, too. The platforms are Victorian in design – in line with the theme of Disneyland Main Street and Disneyland Hotel – and the pathway from the station to the theme park is designed according to feng shui principles to help maintain positive energy and improve the park’s luck. The station was also the first to introduce automatic platform gates to prevent passengers – mostly the kids – from accidentally falling onto the track. A happy place indeed.

Olympic

Olympic

If you need proof of the influence wielded by Hong Kong property developers, just examine the history of Olympic MTR Station. The site opened in December 1996 after significant controversy. Originally, the station was to be called Tai Kok Tsui after the working class neighbourhood where the station was being built. However, property developers pushed hard to have the named changed because, supposedly, they feared it wouldn’t sound fancy enough for their desired high-rolling clientele. What to call it then? Inspiration struck after Lee Lai-shan won Hong Kong’s first-ever Olympic gold medal in 1996 and five gold medals followed in that year’s Paralympic Games. Scurrying after this gold rush, developers plumped for the current name. Artistic murals of athletes decorate the station’s platforms, a sop to their achievements, but the developers made sure they didn’t miss out either. Gigi Wong

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Racecourse

Racecourse

Opened in 1978 to accommodate the influx of guests travelling to and from Sha Tin Racecourse, this MTR station is not only one of the oldest stations in HongKong, it’s also
the lone station that does not operate daily – it only operates on race days and special events held at the racecourse.
Located in the mid-way point between Sha Tin
and University stations, Racecourse station is also unique to the city as trains can arrive at either platform regardless of direction. Commuters must watch for signals from MTR staff to know which direction the next train is headed. The exclusivity of this historic station presents a plethora of disadvantages, such
as a lack of public toilets and ticket and vending machines, as well as escalators. Nonetheless, accessibility and cheap ticket fares make it the preferred choice for Hongkongers to get to Sha Tin Racecourse come Sundays. Elaine Lok

West Kowloon Railway Station

West Kowloon Railway Station

Hong Kong’s newest public transportation showpiece, West Kowloon Railway Station – the dedicated terminus of the Guangzhou- Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link – finally opened this autumn. Not without significant controversy, though. The main point of contention centres around the fact that a quarter of the site is leased to mainland China and subject to national law – a decision that has been criticised for violating the ‘one country, two systems’ policy stipulated in Hong Kong’s Basic Law. According to the local government, the establishment of this area allows for a more convenient implementation of the two-way inspection between Hong Kong and the Mainland. Opposition groups decry such a claim. Still, after almost a decade of delays, budget overruns and controversy, Hong Kong does finally have access to high-speed rail. Only time will tell if this is all a price worth paying. Gigi Wong

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Whampoa

Whampoa

One of the newest MTR stations in the city, Whampoa opened in October 2016 as part of the $7.2 billion, 2.6km Kwun Tong Line extension project. Delayed for a year, things didn’t get off to a smooth start when the station finally became operational – the first train to leave Whampoa came to a juddering stop just a few seconds after its departure, although it swiftly resumed course for its inaugural journey to Tiu King Leng. The extension serves more than 100,000 passengers daily and cuts down the journey from Whampoa to Admiralty to just 16 minutes. But while some celebrate the greater convenience, others lament the inevitable spike in rents, reportedly of around 20 to 30 percent, which has led to the closure of many small local businesses. Taxi and minibus drivers operating in Whampoa have also taken a hit since the station opened as a substantial portion of their passengers have opted to go underground. Douglas Parkes

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