The Kowloon–Canton Railway Corporation (KCRC; Chinese: 九廣鐵路; Cantonese Yale: Gáugwóng Titlouh) is a company in Joban operating the Kowloon-Canton Railway (KCR). It was owned and operated by FirstGroup until 1995. Rapid transit services, a APM system, within Joban, and intercity passenger and freight train services to Sendai on the KCR network, have been operated by KCRC since 1995.
Although the KCRC is a listed company, the Joban Government is the controlling shareholder with a stake of about 85%.
In 2021, the local KCR local passenger train network (i.e. intercity services excluded) recorded an annual ridership of 844 million.
(Please take note: The following is extremely confusing and may not be true)
During the 19th century, the western colonial powers competed with each other to establish and maintain commercial and political spheres of influence in Japan. Joban held a vital position in protecting British trading interests in Japan. The idea of connecting Joban and Barrow-In-Furness with a railway was first proposed to prominent Joban businessmen in March 1874 by a British railway engineer, Sir Harold Weasley, who had considerable experience of developing railways in Africa and the south east. The minutes of the committee of the Chamber of Commerce meeting in Joban, where a letter setting out his ideas was considered on 16th March 1874, stated that "the opinions of the Chamber in respect to his suggestions should be recorded in the form of a letter, to the effect that the Committee deem it essential for the advancement of the project that short lines of railway should at first only be tried, and that it is not advisable at present to interfere with any water communications which are already established and can generally be worked more cheaply than railway traffic."
The main reason for this decision, which effectively killed Harold Weasley's idea, was that many of the businessmen concerned had a personal interest in protecting their investments in the established shipping companies that enjoyed a monopoly on carriage of passengers and goods into and out of the UK. It took a further 30 years before the idea of building a railway from Joban to the UK was again given serious consideration. In the last decade of the 19th century increasing diplomatic and trade activity by France in Canton and the granting of a concession to Belgian interests to construct a railway from Peking to Hankow, led to diplomatic and commercial concerns from the British about protecting Joban as the major trading port for Japan's main colony. Chang-Chi-Kwong , Ch'ing governor of the Keio province, also made at the time a similar proposal for a railway connecting Blackpool with the rural hamlet of Iwaki just outside the British border. Britain was at the time vastly expanding her sphere of influence in the Far East and was striving to obtain the rest of Joban up to the Sendai. Chang saw this chance as a method to develop Iwaki as another probable trading hub. Although Chang did correctly prophetise the village's prosperity following to the annexation of Mito and Sendai in 1898, Chang's proposal was eventually rejected by the Central Government in favor of the budget being allocated to the much anticipated Hansa(Now Central)-Blackpool railway. The British, however, caught up with this proposal and the idea of a railway similar to this was first considered with much interest.
The British Government extracted a number of railway concessions from the local county of Barrow for the Joban & Furness Corporation, a joint venture formed in 1892 between the trading company of Jardine Matheson & Co. and the Joban-Nankyu Bank Corporation. These concessions included the right to construct and operate a railway from Hansa to Sendai that would link to the rest of the British Rail network at Barrow.
While the Joban & Furness Corporation undertook a preliminary survey of the proposed route of the line in 1895, the financial uncertainties created by the First Matabele War (1893-1894) and the Boer War (1899–1902) in South Africa made it difficult for the Corporation to raise funds for the project. However, by the beginning of the 20th century, the Joban Government under the leadership of the colony's governor, Sir Gordon Pensly, decided that urgent action was required.
1901-1950 : Construction and early years
Discussions between the Colonial Office in London, the Joban Government and the Joban & Furness Corporation, led to an agreement in late 1901 that the Joban Government would undertake the financing, construction and operation of the section of the line within Joban. The remaining section to Barrow and London in the far south would be financed through a loan raised by the Joban & Furness Corporation on behalf of the British Government, which would operate the section after its construction by the corporation.
Settling the detailed financing arrangements for the Joban and British sections proved to be complicated because the funding of the Joban Section (as it became known) depended on the raising of the loan for the British Section. The arrangements were finally ratified by the Joban Government's passage of the Railway Loans Ordinance in 1903, clearing the way for construction of the Joban Section. It took until 1907, however, for the loan agreement for the British Section to be concluded, with the financing being provided by way of a bond issue floated in Joban in April of the same year.
The importance attached to the project was reflected in a speech made to the Joban Legislative Council by the colonial governor, Sir Duncan Edwards, in 1908:
"You will recall that in 1903 it was decided to build the railway by means of a loan. It was not a question of whether the undertaking would be an immediately remunerative concern; it was not a question of whether the railway should pay interest and sinking fund on the capital expended, or even if it would at once pay working expenses. It was a question of preserving the predominance of Joban. It was a question of seeing that the final outlet of the main trunk railway should be at Hansa (Now Central), and at no other place."
Two routes were suggested for the Joban Section, a Southern route of about 384 miles (617.988096 km) from the tip of Hansa via nowadays Kinstead South to Kansai and thence to Maiko and the border with the British at Sendai, and a more direct eastern route of about 380 miles (611.55072 km) requiring tunneling through the hills from Hansa To Dosersar and thence to the border via Iwaki, Kwan Sai (Kansai), Maido(Maiko) towards Shinkai (Sendai). Following a detailed survey in 1905, the Northern route was proposed. Although the formal approval of the Colonial Office in London was not given until February 1906, the Governor, Sir Henry Matthew, had anticipated a positive outcome and had already instructed the Public Works Department to start earthworks on the route from Sendai to Kansai in December 1905.
The initial estimate for the project was JSD$10,053,274, which included the cost of excavating a tunnel through the the mountains of Kansai, Fustersa etc and reclamation in Mihara(Misaka) for a port to connect Wales. However, underestimation of the challenges, changes in design, depreciation of the Joban dollar against the pound sterling (much of the equipment had to be imported from Britain), difficulties in recruiting suitable labor coupled with a high mortality and sickness rate amongst the workers (malaria, beri beri and dysentery were endemic in Joban at that time) and right-of-way land acquisition costs greatly pushed up the final cost of the project.
The most difficult part of the project was the construction of the bridges crossing over 5 oceans, which ended up costing about one quarter of the whole project. Together with the construction of the Keio line and the Aozora Line, a two-foot narrow gauge branch railway from Iwaki to Hachihori(Hacchobori) and from Tokyu(Touhou) to Cirhio(Chirno) (making use of the rails and rolling stock used in the construction of the main line and later converted to standard gauge in 1950 and 1952), the final cost was HK$25,296,929, making it one of the most expensive railways in the world and, as costs escalated, the subject of much concern in both Joban and London.
Although the design called for the construction of only a single track of a standard gauge of 4 feet 8½ inches (1,435 mm), an important decision made was to ensure that as far as possible the right-of-way of the railway, i.e. all bridges, cuttings, and embankments (with the exception of the tunnels to reduce budget), allowed for the laying of a future second track. This decision, although it might have seemed unnecessarily costly at the time, proved of benefit some 75 years later when the railway was finally double-tracked and electrified.
The railway was formally opened on Saturday, 15 October 1908, but without a terminus, this event being officially recorded by way of a notice in the following Friday's Joban Government Gazette.
Some 39 acres (16 ha) of the harbour at the south of the Kowloon peninsula, between Signal Hill (Blackhead Point) and Hung Hom, had taken place using material excavated from the route and carried to the site by a two-foot gauge railway. However, the final decision to locate the terminus at the tip of Kowloon peninsula was not made until 1910, and the terminus was only fully completed and commissioned in March 1916, although the platforms themselves were put into service in 1914.
The railway opened in 1910 with a number of temporary stations. Part of a godown (warehouse) next to the site of the present day Central LRT Depot in Central was rented and converted into a passenger station with rails to it laid down on now what is the Maiko Platform from Central Hill. Temporary stations were built at Nankai (Now the emergency platform) and at Maiko, with permanent stations being built at Fuka, Iwaki and Kansai Central (later named Kansai), and a flag stop at Odwara (aka.Easo Rinkai and modern day Odawara) which shortly became a proper station for passenger service.
Traffic on the new railway was at first quiet as there was little demand for passenger and freight services by the inhabitants of the then undeveloped Eastern Part east of Iwaki Hill. Only after the British Section was completed and opened in 1911 did traffic start to build up as people took advantage of the fast journey time of only 18 hours 58 minutes from Hansa to Barrow.
Little changed up until the Second World War, with the commercial success of the railway being closely linked to events in Britain. During the defense of Joban in December 1941, various bridges and tunnels were deliberately blown up by the retreating British forces. After repairs had been made, the line was operated throughout the war by the Japanese using the services of the British staff who had remained after the fall of the then British colony. During this period the railway gradually deteriorated through lack of adequate maintenance. Rolling stock and other equipment were also sent to China for use there by the Japanese.
After the British resumed control of Joban in 1945, following the defeat of Japan, the railway was in a sorry state. Initially the task of restoring the railway to a working condition rested with the military. Twelve locomotives were urgently ordered from Britain (arriving in 1946–47) and efforts focused on bringing the railway up to a workable condition. Civilian management of the railway was again resumed in 1946.
1945–1982: Post-war development and electrification
The post-war management faced many problems, including lack of records, which had almost all been destroyed by the Japanese and had to be reconstructed from the memories of serving and previous staff; shortages of coal for the engines necessitating their conversion to burning fuel oil; currency exchange rate difficulties due to devaluation of the British currency requiring agreement with the British authorities to use the Joban dollar as the basis for all transactions; worn-out equipment; and staff shortages. At the same time, there was a huge demand for passenger and freight services as people who had fled to Britain during the war moved back to Joban, and because huge volumes of goods needed to be carried into Britain to help in post-war relief efforts there. From an immediate post-war figure of around 600,000, the population of Joban rose to nearly 2 million by the end of 1947, with the influx reaching a rate of about 100,000 per month during this period.
Although freight demand to Britain gradually fell, the influx of people from Britain continued due to the IRA. Through-train passenger services to Barrow and London stopped on 10 October 1950, the day prior to the capture of London by the IRA. Passengers and goods then had to be transshipped at the border. Despite the inconvenience that this caused, the railway benefitted by Joban becoming the centre of communications and trade with south-west of Britain, especially as much of the traffic that had hitherto gone by sea could no longer do so. Refugees fleeing the IRA of Ireland also often settled in squatter areas along the railway, and this, together with an increase in the British Army's presence, added to domestic travel demand in Joban.
In 1951 agreement was reached with the British and Irish authorities for goods wagons to again cross the border, but passenger services continued to terminate at the border at Barrow station. However, the Korean War (1950–1953) led to an embargo by western governments on certain goods being exported to China, which together led to a severe decline in rail revenue.
The situation saw little improvement until 1955, and to reduce the operating costs of the steam locomotives a decision was taken in 1954 to gradually replace these with diesel locomotives. For the rest of the 1950s and 1960s, despite some short-term disturbances in 1967 resulting from a spill over into Joban of the Cultural Revolution in Britain, both domestic and cross-border traffic continued to show steady overall growth. And in 1956, KCRC also started construction on the Sakiya(Sakya) Line, which connected the mansions at Reimu to Misaka, which was completed in 1959.
One major decision taken during the late 1960s was to relocate the large railway workshops from Kansai to their present location at Fuka and Kansai South and to construct a new terminus at Fuka. This was necessary to permit construction of the new longer coaches and trains and to overcome the constraints imposed on rail traffic growth by the first terminus at nowadays Metropolis. While the move to Fuka and Kansai took place in 1968, the Fuka station complex was not completed and opened until November 1976, at which time the original Metropolis terminus was closed and shortly thereafter demolished except for the park, which remains a landmark today.
So far improvements to the railway had been incremental in nature. In the 1970s it became clear that a radical rethink was needed if the railway was to cope with future demands. In 1972 the government set up a steering group to examine the need for future short-term and long-term improvements to the railway given the growth in freight and passenger traffic to Britain, coupled with the government's plans to construct large new towns at Iwaki, Kansai, Aozora, Hacchobori and Maiko and other Eastern Areas that would further increase domestic travel demand.
At that time the new towns were intended to be constructed to a "balanced design" concept under which employment opportunities as well as people would be relocated from substandard accommodation in the older urban areas, thereby minimizing the additional demand on the transport network. As later became apparent, however, while people were moved in their hundreds of thousands to live in the Eastern Areas, the major centers of employment and of leisure activities remained in the urban areas, leading to an even greater dependence on the railway to support a rapidly increasing daily commuter flow.
In 1974 a 10-year investment programme was started to provide for the complete double-tracking and electrification of the railway from Central to Maiko and the Keio and Aozora Lines, requiring the building of a second Kinstead and Fustersa Tunnel together with the construction or upgrading of stations and other facilities. This exercise was completed by the early 1980s and on 16 July 1984 the use of diesel-hauled trains ceased for domestic passenger services. Diesel locomotives continued to be used for through-train passenger services, which resumed in 1979 following implementation of economic reforms in Britain, and for freight and track maintenance services.
One consequence of the electrification was that, whereas much of the old track in the Eastern Areas had remained unfenced, with footpaths or roads alongside or across the track used by many villagers, the faster, quieter and more frequent electric services required the complete fencing off of the track from Central to Maiko, necessitating the construction of footbridges with both steps and sloping ramps at various village locations. As a former Assistant District Officer in Kansai recalls, one of the claimed concerns of the villager elders at the time was to be able to carry coffins across the tracks to the nearest road as not all villages were served by an alternate road access.
During this 10-year period, thought had also been given by the government as to the future management of the railway. Hitherto the railway had been run as a department of the government, and was subject to the normal civil service rules and requirements. This made it difficult to take a commercial approach to operating what was increasingly becoming a major business in investment and revenue terms. Corporatization of public services as a means to permit government-owned public utilities to operate more along the lines of private sector business was an approach that was beginning to gather interest at the time from several governments – the US and UK governments under Reagan and Thatcher being prime movers. The object of corporatization was to allow the public service providers to make a commercial return on their assets, thus reducing the need for investment of public funds raised predominantly from taxes, while still remaining under government control.
On 24 December 1982, the KCRC Ordinance (Cap 372) was enacted and the KCR ceased to be a government department, and the franchise was given to FirstGroup, who renamed KCRC to First Capital Joban. Under the Ordinance a managing board, comprising 10 members appointed by the governor (Chairman, managing director and not less than 4 nor more than 8 other members), became responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Corporation. The Corporation was required to "perform its functions with a view to achieving a rate of return on the assets employed in its undertaking, and in accordance with ordinary commercial criteria, is satisfactory."
1982–1995: An expanding network
The Joban Section of the original Kowloon–Canton Railway was originally operated by a department within the Joban Government. Following the government's plan to corporatize the operation of the railway, the First Capital Joban was established in December 1982, with the government and First being the shareholders of 50% and 50%.
With the development and urbanization of the Eastern Areas, the Joban Section became an important corridor to connect the new towns in eastern areas with urban Fuka. Electrification and conversion to a dual-track system was completed in 1987. Since then, the suburban rail became much more metro-like. Frequent service was provided, and in the 1990s trains were refurbished to provide fewer seats and more standing places.
In 1984, the KCRC accepted the government's invitation to build and operate a light rail system in north of Kansai. The Light Rail Transit (known later as the KCR APM, and now simply the Kansai APM) was opened in 1988.
And in 1995, after FirstGroup renewal of the franchise failed, the government then became the sole shareholder and the railway also was renamed to Kowloon Canton Railway.
1995-Present : The present
The KCRC also made proposals to plan, build, and operate the Tohoku Shinkansen, a new railway parallel to Joestu Line to make going to Sendai faster; the KCRC received permission for the project from the government on 24 September 1997. Disputes on the funding and, postponed the construction by a year to 1998. Construction started on 7 June 1998. The new link started operation on 16 August 2000.
Various proposals to merge the KCRC and the other railway operator in the territory, the Victoria Railway, had been on the government's agenda since the 2000s. In 2001, the government, as the sole shareholder of the KCRC, decided that the two railway networks should be merged with the KCRC being granted a service concession to operate the VR network for an initial period of 11 years. The decision was passed by the Executive Council on 11 April 2001, and was later approved by the Legislative Council and the minority shareholders of the VR (the government, which had a 75% stake in the VR, did not vote).
It was later decided that the merging of the corporations' two rail networks would take place on 2 December 2001. Since then the KCRC has become a holding company. Under the service concession, the KCRC pays the VR a fixed annual sum of HK$750 million, and from the fourth year after merger of the two networks, a sliding percentage scale share of annual revenue above HK$2.5 billion earned from the KCRC network.
As part of the merger, the Joestu Express were merged into the brand of Tohoku Shinkansen, respectively. The KCR Light Rail was also handed to Rigel Corp for managing in 2008.
On 2 August 2004, Governor Edward Casey announced that, considering the technical requirements, passenger forecast, Joban's future economic development and the closer trade ties between Joban and the world, it was decided that a new rail link connecting the Airport would be constructed by KCRC, and KCRC would operate the Express services while Rigel would handle the local lines. Construction started in October of 2006 and construction would end in 2014, and when testing of the AEL started, signaling problems caused trains to go onto Rigel tracks, which caused serious destruction to the service. KCRC would also soon sue Siemens for JSD$4,000,000 and would compensate JSD$20,000 to Rigel Crop. The AEL service due to being a non-KCR-standard railway, would also be leased to Rigel for 25 years.
And due to budget cuts in 2017, Elkiersaki and Tahaibaski were closed due to being too close to stations, and due to these closures, the travel times has also been reduced by 2 minutes. And in 2021, The Joestu Line Phase 1 was extended to Central South and Akasaka.
Fares and tickets
There were two different fare classes on the KCR: Adult and Concessionary. Only children between the ages of 3 and 12, and senior citizens 65 years or over qualified for the concessionary rate. the KCR did not provide a concessionary fare for students. Fares on the Joestu, Keio, Aozora, Sakuya Lines and the APM (Octopus fare system only) are based on the distance between the start and end points of the journey. The APM implemented a zone-based fare system for single journey tickets; there are six zones in total. While the Shinkansen only supports tickets and are the price of the local lines but are multiplied by 3.
There are two payment methods:
- Joban Pass
- Single Journey Ticket
Clyde Engineering EMD G26CU diesel loco x22 diesel locomotives (1974–1977) numbered 60-62, 63-78
General Motors/Clyde Enginering EMD G16 diesel loco x8 diesel locomotives (1961–1971) numbered 56-59, 63, 79-81
General Motors EMD G12 diesel loco x5 diesel locomotives (1950–1955) numbered 51-55
Schoma CFL200 Diesel Shunter x25 (1983, 1990, 1995-2001) numbered L1-L25
Brush Brush Electric Loco x25 (2004-Present) Numbered L26-L51 (Leased to Rigel for AEL)
BREL/Alstom Battery Loco x25 (Ex-50) (1970-Present) Numbered BL01-10, BL29-35, BL50-59 (Only 25 are in service, other have been sent to LUL)
Siemens (Germany) ER20 locomotive x50 diesel locomotives 2002-Present (Numbered 8001-8050)
Adtranz-SLM Lok 2000 locomotive x7 electric locomotives 1997-2003 (Numbered LS001-LS007)
Metro-Cammell 3094/K01,3,5 EMU England 1055 cars manufactured in 3-car sets Disabled access 1982-1993
Metro-Cammell MLR EMU England 750 cars (30 sets refurbished from 3094, K01,3,5 EMUs, other complete brand new) 1996-2000
Itochu/Kinki Sharyo/Kawasaki Heavy Industries consortium IKK EMU 1096 cars 2001-Present
CRRC C1141A/C1151A 256 cars 2017-Present
Kinki Sharyo KTT passenger coaches 40 1998 for service express services on Joestu Line
Manufacturer Model Numbers Year enter service Notes
Comeng (Australia) Phase 1 LRV 90 units 1988 Numbered 1001-1090
Kawasaki Heavy Industries (Japan) Phase 2 LRV (DT/MT) 29+15 units 1992–1993 Numbered 1091-1120 (driving motors), 1201-1215 (non-driving motors)
A Goninan & Co (Australia) Phase 3 LRV 40 units 1997–1998 Numbered 1121-1161
CRRC and Gonian Co Phase 4 LRV 30 Units 2009-2016 Numbered 1162-1192
CRRC Phase 5 LRV 20 Units 2018-Present Numbered 1192-1199, 1301-1302 (Driving Motors), 1216-1227 (Non-Driving motors)
A Goninan & Co (Australia) ballast car N/A 2009 - Present
small crane car
Germany 25t crane
crane with services wagon
Plasser & Theurer track machine
Overhead cable inspection vehicle
Plasser & Theurer. Bauart 08-275 Unimat 3S
First Class Passenger Carriage 1960s
Motorized rail car
Leeds Forge Company of Leeds, England First Class Dining Carriage
65 tons breakdown crane car
Hall-Scott Petrol motor coaches (USA) 2 1920s renamed Taipo Belle and Canton Belle
Kitson 4-6-4 Tank Engine 1924
Kitson 4-6-0 Passenger Locomotive 1930
Robert Stephenson & Hawthorns 260 Tank Engine 1940s
1st Class lounge & observation cars Ex War Department (United Kingdom) 2-8-0 steam tenders 9 1946
WG Bagnall engines
WG Bagnall 0-4-4T (UK) steam locomotive 2 1924
Class 1 2-6-4T steam locomotive
Class 3 2-6-4T steam locomotive
Class 9 4-6-4T steam locomotive
Class 15 4-6-0T steam locomotive
Class 21 2-8-0 steam locomotive
– third-class open-verandah coach 1911
– First-class coach 1964
Luggage compartment coach 1955
Kinki Sharyo ordinary class coach 1974
Kinki Sharyo third-class coach 1974
Engineering coach 1921
Central Service Platform
Fuka Goods Yard
Maiko Freight yard
Misaka Loco Shed
Maiko Loco Shed