The MTR West Island Line (WIL) is an extension of the existing 13km-long Island Line which connects Sheung Wan, Western District, to Chai Wan, Eastern District, in Hong Kong. The 3km-long extension is an underground railway line that runs from Sheung Wan to Kennedy Town, the two western townships of Hong Kong.
The railway project was officially launched with a groundbreaking ceremony in August 2009. The WIL started services in December 2014 and became fully operational with the opening of the Sai Ying Pun Station in March 2015. The project cost was estimated at HK$15.4bn ($1.98bn) according to 2008 pricing.
West Island Line extension project background
The WIL project was proposed with the aim of providing the growing Western District with a safe and reliable railway system. The district is among the few remaining urban areas that are not served by railway. The project enables commuters to reach Sheung Wan from Kennedy Town in just seven minutes. Road transport for the same journey takes between 15min and 25min during peak hours.
It is anticipated that the improved transport network will create new business opportunities in the district and will significantly increase employment opportunities.
In August 2006, a revised project proposal of the original WIL scheme was submitted by MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL), the owner and operator of Island Line, to the Hong Kong SAR Government. The project scheme was first gazetted in October 2007.
It was again gazetted in September 2008 and January 2009 with amendments and corrections. The scheme was finally authorised under the Railways Ordinance in March 2009.
Funding arrangements for the construction of the new line were approved in May 2009 and construction work began in July 2009.
MTR’s West Island Line details
The West Island Line project included the construction of a 3km-long electrified double-track underground railway system with three new stations at Sai Ying Pun, the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and Kennedy Town.
Apart from the underground railway system, the project involved re-provisioning, remedial and improvement works of some existing public facilities. Some of the public facilities that were re-provisioned during the construction included the Centre Street Market West Block, Kennedy Town Swimming Pool, David Trench Rehabilitation Centre and Hong Kong Central Dental Laboratory.
Sai Ying Pun and the Centennial Campus of HKU stations are furnished with lifts and escalators.
Lines, routes and alignments of the new 3km long extension
The new line starts at Sheung Wan Station of the Island line and ends at the new station at Kennedy Town. It passes through two new stations at Sai Ying Pun and the University of Hong Kong.
Both Sai Ying Pun Station and Hong Kong University Station have six entrances, while Kennedy Town Station has three station entrances.
Construction works on the extension to the existing 13km Island Line
The construction works primarily involved excavation for the tunnels, stations and pedestrian passages. Some of the existing public facilities were reprovisioned while some were temporarily relocated.
Tunnel boring machines (TBM) and the drill-and-blast method were used in the construction of tunnels according to the prevailing geological conditions.
Sai Ying Pun to Kennedy Town tunnels, Sai Ying Pun Station and Hong Kong University Station was constructed using drill and blast methods, while the section between Sai Ying Pun and Sheung Wan was excavated using TBM. The excavation of this section started in September 2011 by the TBM Xi Shi.
The Kennedy Town Station was constructed using a cut-and-cover method in a bottom-up approach.
Major contractors involved in Hong Kong’s rail project
A joint venture comprised Dragages, Maeda Corporation and Bachy Soletanche Group (BSG) was awarded the contract to build eastbound and westbound running tunnels between Sheung Wan and Sai Ying Pun stations in October 2009.
The HK$1.6bn ($206.4m) contract also included the demolition of the existing overrun tunnel at Sheung Wan Station, and construction of two passenger entrances at Sai Woo Lane.
In March 2010, two major civil contracts worth HK$6.1bn ($785.8m) were awarded by MTR Corporation. Gammon Nishimatsu WIL joint venture was contracted for the construction of Sai Ying Pun and Hong Kong University stations, Sai Ying Pun to Kennedy Town tunnel and a barging point and a fully enclosed conveyor belt at Shing Sai Road.
The other contract was awarded to Gammon Construction. It included construction of Kennedy Town Station and an overrun tunnel at Kennedy Town.
Other contractors involved in the project were Paul Y Construction Company, Sun Fook Kong Construction and Lam Geotechnical. Yee Sun Garden looked after the tree transplantation.