By far the most familiar trains of Hong Kong are the MTR’s fleet of Metro Cammell (now part of Alstom) EMUs. They were the definitive trains of my childhood. Introduced with the initial network opening in 1979, the full fleet of 768 cars was delivered in phases over the next 15 years.
These trains have been the face of Hong Kong’s public transport, with a daily ridership of 2 million by the early 1990s. They began as 4-car trainsets but quickly expanded to the station maximum of 8. Each car has 5 doors per side with enclosed thru gangways. Power is by overhead lines sitting low to the train roof—the pantographs run at a very low position except at depots where clearance is higher.
Maybe it’s just the childhood thing, but I still love how the trains look sleek yet industrial, with the tapered body, wide rounded windows and thick emergency ventilation bars. The doors are amusingly overpowered—you can get knocked hard if you happen to be in the way. The thyristor whine is more pleasant than the shrill, buzzy IGBT propulsion in newer trains. The flat-white exterior paint is also unusual, as is the complete lack of MTR branding on the sides of the train. Only the front and rear faces have a logo.
Starting in 1998, all trains were thoroughly refreshed by United Goninan of Australia (now UGL Rail), with new interiors and new front and rear faces. Unfortunately, this included removing all of the proud “Metro Cammell England” branding on the trains.
Of course, the benefits were massive—rider comfort and reliability were greatly increased with new GTO propulsion and ATC safety systems, electric door motors replacing pneumatic systems, scalloped seats, more grab bars and handles replacing crappy grab balls, digital displays, brighter lighting, better HVAC, the list is endless.
As the oldest cars have now been serving for over 40 years, these trains will be gradually phased out starting at the end of 2019, replaced by the Urban Lines Vision Trains which began arriving last year.
Although they will always have a special place in my heart, by 2023 these noisy old trains will no longer be the face of the MTR. Thank goodness YouTube (and, to a certain extent, OpenBVE) can preserve their sights and sounds forever!
Similar trains also serve on the historic KCR network (now absorbed into the MTR) when it was electrified in 1983. Length is a whopping 12 cars. They too will be retired over the next few years: