West Kowloon (MTR code: WEK) is the high speed rail station of Hong Kong.
As part of the plans for the massive expansion of high-speed rail service in China, extending the Beijing-Guangzhou high-speed railway to Hong Kong was a major step, especially since it would represent the first route outside the mainland for the system and further integrate Hong Kong with the rest of the country. However, it took a while for contruction to start in 2011 and there were multiple delays and cost overruns, making it so the long overdue station wouldn't open until 23 September 2018.
The project was not only marred by contruction issues - there have been many protests as well. Originally over MTR's land acquisition works for the project, these have expanded to voice suspicion about the mainland government, especially over the joint checkpoint and Hong Kong sovereignty. Even after the opening of West Kowloon, peaceful demonstrations against the project have continued. THe traveller shouldn't be concerned about them as they are usually fairly small and not a danger in any way.
Buying tickets can be a bit complex. Some vending machines and manned counters are only for pre-booked tickets that need to be picked up, some are for acutally buying the tickets. Not only that, but many trains are served only by one set of counters. For example, if you are transferring on the mainland, you have to go to a separate counter to pick up your "Mainland Domestic Ticket" and pay a small handling fee. There is a huge advantage here, however - unlike the mainland, most of the signs are in English as well as Chinese.
When paying for your ticket, you can either pay in Chinese yuan or Hong Kong dollar. The yuan price stays fluid, while the dollar price is only updated every month.
As the image shows, tickets issued at West Kowloon are very different from mainland-issued tickets, so if you have prebooked tickets to pick up, you may want to get them at a certain station depending on what language and characters you can read better.
There are, in essence, three types of trains running - MTR short-haul (Vibrant Express), CRH short-haul and CRH long-haul. The MTR and CRH trainsets have different symbols ( and x16px respectfully). You should definitely make sure you are going to the right platform, since several stations in Guangdong are served by all three types, not to mention all the different trains of each type. Ticket checks mean that you will probably be informed before you step on the wrong train, hoewever. If your destination is covered by a short haul (up to Guangzhou) train, then a ticket for a short haul train is cheaper, but it might be harder to get.
Note: All station names are in English and Traditional Chinese for now.
CRH also runs long haul routes. All services of this type first stop at Shenzen North (Shenzhenbei, 深圳北) or Fuitan (福田). Some also stop at Guangzhou South (Guangzhounan, 廣州南) and other various stations in Guangdong. Most trains go to the eastern Chaosan region in Guangdong with many stops inside the rest of the province, perhaps as a supplement to the short haul services.
There are also cities on the mainland outside this line that are still served directly - Kunming (via Guilin and Guiyang), Fuzhou, Xiamen and Shanghai (via Changsha) are among them. Most of these trains diverge from the Beijing-Hong Kong line at Guangzhou or Huizhou.
Here is a list of major high-speed services:
- Beijing (9 hours): 1 Changsha South (Changshanan, 長沙南) - 2 Wuhan (武漢) - 3 Zhengzhou East (Zhengzhoudong, 鄭州東) - 4 Shijiazhuang (石家莊) - 5 Beijing West (Beijingxi, 北京西)
- Kunming (7 hours): 6 Guilin West (Guilinxi, 桂林西) - 7 Guiyang North (Guiyangbei, 貴陽北) - 8 Kunming South (Kunmingnan, 昆明南)
- Fuzhou: 9 Chaoshan (潮汕), Xiamen North (Xiamenbei, 廈門北) - 10 Fuzhou (福州)
- Xiamen (4 hours): Huizhou South (Huizhounan, 惠州南) - Zhangzhou (漳州) - 11 Xiamen (廈門) (some service nonstop from Huizhou to Xiamen)
- Shanghai (8 hours): Changsha South (Changshanan, 長沙南) - Hangzhou East (Hangzhoudong, 杭州東) - 12 Shanghai Hongqiao (上海虹橋)
In the future, more expansion is expected with more direct trains and destinations planned.
Despite the travel times to get to Beijing and Shanghai, there are no sleeper services yet. Except for some of southeast China, high speed rail is not faster than flying, although it is usually cheaper.
By public transitEdit
West Kowloon is planned to be a massive transportation hub, with links to many public transport options through footbridges and pedestrian concourses at the ground level. Most forms of public transit support the Octopus card.
There are multiple connection to 1 Austin in the east - Exit A on floor B2 is connected via footbridge to Exit C of Austin, and Exit K1 on floor L1 is connected to exit B4 of Austin.
2 Kowloon is also nearby to the west, and can be reached through Exit K1 via the Elements shopping mall.
Exit K2 on Floor L1 leads to the West Kowloon Bus Terminus, a newly built complex which is where KMB (Kowloon) buses stop. It replaced the temporary stend at Tu Wah Road. The image shows some of the buses that stop there, the routes that they take, and which area of the terminus they stop at.
Exit J leads to the bus stand for airport and tourist buses.
Parking and drop-off/pick-up areas are in the parking garage at level B2. Parking is free for 15 minutes, after that it costs $32 an hour - more than the airport! There are full day passes for $100 available when you show a high-speed rail ticket.
Since most exits go to the street, you can simply walk into the center of Kowloon. There is also a footbridge netowrk that is planned to connect to some of the nearby buildings, with some buildings .
The station has several levels:
- L2 - Sky Corridor
- L1 - Various footbridge connections
- G - Station entrance, transport area, ground level
- B1 - Ticketing
- B2 - Arrival Concourse, Parking
- B3 - Departure Councourse
- B4 - Platforms
In addition, there are some other levels not accessible to the public (usually they will have a letter at the end of their name as well, such as "B3H").
Customs and immigrationEdit
Departing from Hong Kong: Enter the station on Level B1, buy tickets if needed, and get them checked. Take an escalator or elevator to B3. First clear Hong Kong immigration, then cross the port area border into the mainland inspection area. After passing through that, go down to B4 and catch your train at the platforms. Accessing the platform is like going into an airport gate - go to the escalator/elevator marked with your platform number (you can double-check the train number and destination using LCD screens) and then go down to the platform.
Arriving from the mainland: After getting off the train, go up to Level B2. Go through mainland customs, then cross the border and clear Hong Kong immigration. After passing a ticket check, you are free to leave.
- Business Lounge, Level B3. Available for Business, First and Premium class passengers.
There are public spaces inside and outside the station before the "port area: with immigration and customs. Here are some of the attractions:
- Green Plaza (near Exit H). Set of gardens outside the station.
- Bus Terminus Rooftop Garden.
- Sky Corridor Sightseeing Deck (near Exit K4). A path that goes from the ground onto the top of the station's roof and down again. This is where you can look at the skylines of Hong Kong and Kowloon, among other sights.
Eat and DrinkEdit
There is a food court with many Chinese restaurants, as well as a Starbucks and a 7/11.
Level B3 has water dispensers, so you might want to fill up any bottles there.
The station has free Wi-Fi with the SSID MTR Free Wi-Fi for a maximum of 2 hours a day in 30 minute sessions. The Vibrant Express trains use the same system as well. Beware that after crossing the border, you have to reconnect to the Wi-Fi, and on the mainland you need a Chinese cell phone number or WeChat account connected to a Chinese ID to connect.
- Levels B2 and B3 have additional ticketing counters for for fixing mistakes and dealing with lost tickets.
- Baggage storage service is available at WEK G-2, Floor G.
- There are multiple information and tourist counters (marked with ? and i respectfully) in the station.
There are many hotels in the skyscrapers near the MTR stations.
- Hung Hom, the convential railway station of Hong Kong, is just two stops down the West Rail line from Austin.
- Hong Kong International Airport is also a ride away from Kowloon, which also has in-town check-in facilities.
- The rest of Hong Kong is of course the obvious attraction, with the station being in the center of the city. In particular, that station is pretty close to Central and Western on Hong Kong island.