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The British government returned Hong Kong to the Chinese government in 1997. The MTR East Rail Line (formerly the British Section of the Kowloon-Canton Railway) is the only railway in Hong Kong signalled to main line standards. It was opened in 1910 as a single line with crossing loops, and semaphore signals were provided. Extensive modernisation took place in the 1970s, when it was converted to double track and electrified at 25 kV AC. British-style colour light signals showing the usual four aspects of red, yellow, double yellow and green were installed, as was the British Automatic Warning System (AWS).



Passenger trains have been running under an overlaid Automatic Train Protection (ATP) system since 1998. A blue aspect [HK.1] is displayed at signals when a train fitted with working ATP is approaching. A signal showing a blue aspect can be ignored by the driver, who will drive according to the information shown on the cab display.

[HK.1] Blue Aspect. Click Here for Photo

Signal sections may be divided into shorter blocks, which allow ATP-fitted trains to run closer together. A headway board is installed, usually on the approach to a station platform, to mark the limit of a cab signalling block. It shows an inverted solid yellow triangle inside a blue circle and has an identification number at the top [HK.2].

[HK.2] Headway Board.

Signal repeaters are provided where sighting of a signal is restricted. A signal repeater shows no indication when the signal being repeated is at 'danger'. When the signal displays a 'proceed' aspect, the associated repeater will display a white spot [HK.3] if repeating a main signal or two white spots [HK.4] in the case of a shunting signal. Where appropriate, any associated route indications will also be displayed at the repeater.

[HK.3] Main Signal Repeater. Click Here for Photo [HK.4] Shunting Signal Repeater.

Signs are provided at certain signals where a train approaching in restricted speed mode under cab signalling is unable to return to full supervision mode after passing the signal. These bear the letters "FSM", with a blue cross superimposed [HK.5]. It will be necessary for any train that is not running in full supervision mode to proceed with caution to the next signal.

[HK.5] Full Supervision Mode Special Condition Indicator.

'Limit of movement authority' boards are erected at the end of the last cab-signalled block, at the point where full supervision by the ATP system ends (e.g. at the entrance to sidings). There are two types, 'Type A' having just a red spot [HK.6] and 'Type B', which also has two small white spots underneath [HK.7], representing a main red colour light aspect with a position light 'off' aspect below. A Type A board may only be passed if a lineside signal is displaying a 'proceed' aspect. The driver may proceed with caution past a Type B board, being prepared to stop short of any obstruction.

[HK.6] Limit Of Movement Authority Board. [HK.7] Limit Of Absolute Movement Authority Board. Click Here for Photo

Ordinary permanent speed restriction signs are of the British yellow 'cut-out' type (see [13.17]), including, where appropriate, yellow cut-out directional arrows for diverging routes (see [13.18]). The figures refer to the permitted speed in kilometres per hour. As well as these signs, some circular speed signs exist with supplementary signs reading "cut out", indicating that they only apply to trains running in cut out mode [HK.8].

[HK.8] Permanent Speed Restriction Sign applicable only to trains in cut out mode.

Temporary speed restriction signage is derived from British practice, with some differences. T.S.R.s are preceded by a pre-warning indicator at 1000 metres and a warning indicator at 500 metres on the approach to the commencement. The T.S.R. speed is exhibited on a black background at the pre-warning indicator [HK.9] and on a blue background at the warning indicator [HK.10]. Both these indicators have a yellow arrow, which points towards the line it applies to. Speed indicators are similar to those in Great Britain (see [14.33]). Some have a subsidiary indicator displaying a different speed for electric trains, prefixed with a letter "E" [HK.11], which is also exhibited in the appropriate colours at the warning and pre-warning indicators. The termination indicators are the same style as in Britain (see [14.35]) but are placed 300 metres beyond the end of the restriction. This is sufficiently far from the end of the restriction that electric trains may accelerate as soon as the front of the train reaches the termination indicator.

[HK.9] T.S.R. Pre-Warning Indicator. [HK.10] T.S.R. Warning Indicator. [HK.11] Differential T.S.R. Commencement Indicator.

A diamond shaped sign with a horizontal yellow band [HK.12] denotes a position beyond which electric trains must not pass.

[HK.12] Electric Trains Stop Indicator.

When operated by platform staff, a 'close doors' indicator shows a flashing indication comprising a triangle on either side of a vertical line [HK.13]. Headway clocks are provided to control the timely departure of trains. The display shows the remaining time, in minutes and seconds, to departure time [HK.14]. This continues to count down after departure time, a negative value then being shown. The display is also capable of conveying messages to drivers.

[HK.13] 'Close Doors' Indication. [HK.14] Headway Clock.

An Emergency Stop System (ESS) is provided at stations to prevent any trains from entering or leaving during an emergency. When the ESS is initiated by a plunger on the station platform being pressed, the Emergency Stop Indicators are illuminated and all train movements must stop immediately [HK.15].

[HK.15] Emergency Stop Indicator.