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Case Study: Island Line Extension to Western District

At 6:00am on 28 December 2014, the MTR Island Line Extension to Western District officially began passenger service. More than a thousand commuters crowded the station at Kennedy Town to experience the first ride on the new three-kilometre line. In preparation for the start of service, more than 500 MTR and contractor staff worked through the night changing more than 23,000 signs and information boards across the MTR network. Other digital information and the fare collection software were also updated to incorporate two new stations.

Built as a community railway, the Island Line Extension to Western District was designed to provide convenient access for more than 90 per cent of residents of the Western District, including an integrated all-weather pedestrian network. Preparation for the new line began in 2008 and involved consultations with all sections of the community. Many views and opinions from the Government and members of the public were incorporated, including suggestions on how to minimise disruptions during construction.

Following completion of the project at a cost of HK$18.5 billion by latest estimates, travelling time on Hong Kong Island has been reduced significantly. The Island Line is served by new stations at HKU (The University of Hong Kong) and Kennedy Town, which opened in late 2014, and a third station at Sai Ying Pun, which opened on 29 March 2015. The new stations incorporate innovative environmental management features and artistic design elements, providing our passengers with a vision of how refurbished stations elsewhere in our network could look in the future.


What is a “Community Railway”?

The Island Line Extension to the Western District is an example of a community railway built to meet the needs of people living and working in the communities it serves. Here are some illustrative examples of how we accommodated the specific needs of community members in our approach to implementation of this project:

  • A convenient pedestrian network connecting uphill and downhill areas in the West Mid-Levels and the area along Queen’s Road West has been created by lifts, escalators and walkways in the unpaid area of our stations.
  • Provisions were made for green minibus boarding and alighting and a recreational area outside Kennedy Town Station.
  • At Kennedy Town we introduced a passenger lift connecting Sands Street to Rock Hill Street and an escalator on Sands Street to improve pedestrian accessibility.
  • We restored and enhanced public facilities affected by construction of the project, building a new public swimming pool and restoring a historic building by converting it into a rehabilitation centre.

Partnership with Government Agencies

Planning Consultations

During the planning stage, we held a series of consultations with representatives of Government departments and District Councils to ensure the new railway would meet the needs of the city and local communities. We carefully considered all comments on the design of the extension, including rail alignment, station locations, works sites and other factors.

Progress Reports

As the project got underway, we submitted regular progress reports to the Legislative Council Sub-committee on Matters Relating to Railways including papers on construction safety and community liaison activities. We also met with the Central and Western District Council to keep its members up to date on developments.

Ongoing Cooperation

We continued to work closely with Government departments during all phases of construction, ensuring that necessary approvals could be granted in a timely manner to avoid delays. Cooperation with the Environmental Protection Department enabled us to minimise disruptions from noise, wastewater discharge and dust. The Lands Department advised us on land resumption and tree removals, the Transport Department provided support on road closures, traffic diversions and spoil removal and, as a result of discussions with the Fire Services Department, we adopted new guidelines for fire safety.

Emergency Drills

In preparation for the opening of the new line to the public, we held a joint exercise with the Fire Services Department and Hong Kong Police to test emergency response and evacuation procedures. The drill, which was also observed by the Transport Department and Electrical and Mechanical Services Department, simulated an air-conditioning fault causing dense smoke to spread throughout a train between HKU Station and Kennedy Town Station. Around 120 staff members from MTR took part in this drill, which was just one of more than 70 emergency simulation exercises that we implemented before commencement of service.

Links with the Local Community

Community Liaison Groups

To communicate with stakeholders impacted by the construction of Sai Ying Pun, HKU and Kennedy Town stations, we set up three community liaison groups comprising local District Councillors, concerned residents and representatives from various Government departments, such as the Home Affairs Department, Transport Department and Highways Department. We held public meetings four times a year to report to each of these groups on the progress of the project and its impacts.

Website and Information Centre

We established a website dedicated to the project containing progress reports and information on construction methods and community outreach activities, and also opened an Information Centre in Kennedy Town where members of the public could make enquiries in person.

Youth Ambassadors

We initiated an innovative scheme in partnership with the Community Project Workshop of the Faculty of Architecture of The University of Hong Kong to appoint more than 50 students as MTR Youth Ambassadors. In the six months leading up to the opening of the new line, the Youth Ambassadors visited over 30 local schools, senior citizens homes, residential buildings and community centres to improve awareness of station facilities. The programme provided an excellent opportunity for students to develop leadership skills and cultivate a sense of responsibility towards their community.


Learn more...


We maintain dedicated websites for all our new rail projects. In addition to the Island Line Extension Project to Western District, you may also be interested to check out websites for any of our other network expansion projects.


Meeting New Challenges

Pedestrian Mobility

Three new stations located at Sai Ying Pun, The University of Hong Kong and Kennedy Town form part of an integrated system of all-weather walkways and escalators connecting the upper and lower levels of Western District. Hilly terrain in the vicinity of Sai Ying Pun and HKU stations presented our engineers with particular challenges for station access and pedestrian mobility. In response to these challenges, we implemented lift-only access at both stations - a first across the MTR network. The integrated pedestrian system incorporates unpaid access through the concourse of HKU Station, providing a better connection between The University of Hong Kong and its local community and bringing it closer to the heart of Western District.

Minimising Disruptions

In the densely populated urban environment of Western District, we recognised that construction activities could have particularly significant and disruptive impacts on local residents. To address their concerns, we consulted with stakeholders from the start of the project, seeking constantly to strike a balance between the needs of residents and demands of our construction schedule. Our project team had to consider and resolve many questions on a daily basis, such as the following:

How will traffic diversions affect daily commuters?
Will construction works affect the structural integrity of nearby buildings?
How can we address public concerns about building safety?
Will there be excessive noise, dust or other causes of discomfort for local residents?

Conservation of Ancient Trees

When constructing the Island Line Extension to Western District, we took great care to protect trees along the alignment as much as possible. One particular challenge arose in Kennedy Town, where we encountered magnificent tree walls at Forbes Street dating back more than 120 years and containing 22 Chinese banyans and five Japanese fig trees. Four of the trees are listed by the Hong Kong Government as Old and Valuable Trees. Under our initial design for the new Kennedy Town Station, the tree wall would have been harmed by construction of one of the station’s exits. We consulted with representatives of the local community and Government to consider different opinions about the best way to proceed.

Taking into consideration the outcomes of more than 100 consultation meetings, we decided to revise our plan by building an alternative station exit on the site of a public swimming pool, and to compensate the community by building an entirely new swimming pool at a different location at a cost of HK$600 million. The first phase of the new swimming pool complex opened in May 2011. The second phase, which will include indoor pool facilities, is expected to be completed in late 2016.

In the process of resolving our dilemma at Forbes Street, we made another important decision - to create a Tree Protection Zone around which construction work had to follow strict guidelines. Our tunnelling methodology and excavation techniques were adapted to mitigate risk to the trees, and a drainage layer was built around the entire Kennedy Town Station perimeter to allow contaminated water to escape from the trees' roots.

As a result of these efforts, we successfully developed a strong and lasting urban conservation programme for the tree walls at Forbes Street. This experience taught us many important lessons that have now been incorporated into standard tree protection measures being implemented on all of our new projects.


Did you know?


The Island Line Extension to Western District runs underneath a heavily built-up part of Hong Kong. Construction of the line unavoidably required resumption of over 300 portions of underground strata from owners of private buildings sitting above the railway alignment. This process was facilitated by the Government in accordance with the Railways Ordinance. The rate of stratum resumption for the Island Line Extension Project to Western District was the highest for any project in the history of the Company, and lessons from this experience are influencing the way we approach construction of other new lines.


Learn more...


Please click here to view an informative video about the magnificent tree walls at Forbes Street.


Promoting Art and Culture

We launched the West Island Line Community Art Programme to help bring out the unique culture of Western District in the design of three new MTR stations. For example, winning photos submitted by members of the public to a competition entitled Our Memories of Western District are on permanent display, and a permanent art installation at Kennedy Town Station was created from handprints of local residents. During the construction phase of the project, we also invited students, teachers and parents representing local schools to help decorate construction sites by participating in a hoarding design competition.

Impressions of Western District

Together with the Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation, we organised a series of workshops under the theme Our Impressions of Western District. Led by local artists, a group of young people created art pieces portraying traditional shops and the heritage of Western District. The art pieces are on permanent display at Sai Ying Pun Station and HKU Station.

Short Films

We joined with ifva greenlab of the Hong Kong Arts Centre and three young emerging directors, Cheuk Wan-chi, Chow Kwun-wai and Nick Cheuk, to produce a series of short films depicting the close connections between Western District and the people of Hong Kong.


Learn more...


More information about West Island Line Community Art Programme is available on the dedicated project website, including images of the artistic features that make each of our Western District stations unique.