Mixed operation

August 22, 2008 at 7:19 am 1 comment

A few weeks ago I was in Hong Kong on a family business. I’ve always impressed by the rail systems there with their high frequency and reliable operation, despite the annoyance of hearing the same recorded station and onboard announcements again and again in three languages.

Hong Kong used to have two regional rail systems, kind of like Caltrain (but electrified) and BART (but with standard gauge) here. Not too long ago, these two operators merged. The trains ran as they used to be, but because of the merger, fares were unified. The fares for trips requiring a transfer between those two former systems have reduced significantly, even though riders still have to go through two fare gates to transfer (as supposed to none, which will happen eventually).

Of course, Hong Kongers also enjoy the convenience of a smart card system, the Octopus. That smart card has been around for more than a decade and is accepted at stores like 7-11 for non-transit purchases.

On the other hand, in the Bay Area, any trip requiring a transfer between BART and Caltrain is much more expensive. Also, if you try to go from a Caltrain station to San Francisco Airport, you will need extra dollar bills because Caltrain ticket machines only return change in coins, including the $1 coins that BART ticket machines don’t accept. Translink, which is the smart card system in the Bay Area, does not have an clear timetable when that will be expanded to BART and Caltrain.

I wish that we have the political will here to tackle these issues in a sensible manner.

Shown in the video is the East Rail line. It was electrified for rapid transit operation in the 1980s to accommodate urban growth along the line and the increasing passenger demand to Shenzhen.

Despite frequent rapid transit on that line (12-car trains running every 4 minutes), the line also accommodates locomotive haul intercity trains to mainland China, as well as diesel freight service delivering containers and livestocks. All these trains run side by side, something that is not permitted in the United States.


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Eric  |  August 24, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    Yes, the FRA has unfortunately really been an impediment to sensible rail operation in the United States.

    Thanks for recording the video clip.


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