The robots, dubbed Finder-T, Guider-T, Checker-T and Cleaner-T, will begin trials at Kai Tak station in the third quarter of 2020. The robots will use AI to improve their responses over time.

MTR’s maintenance staff are also introducing a number of initiatives and new equipment, including an underframe inspection robot.

The Finder-T and Guider-T robots will answer passenger enquiries about journey planning and, with a mapping function, lead passengers to designated locations in the station such as entrances, exits and toilets. Finder-T can also identify oversized luggage and pushchairs, and advise passengers to take the lift. The Checker-T robot will patrol the station while it is closed, monitoring the status of various facilities such as lighting systems, signage and access doors using image analysis.

Two types of Cleaner-T robots will automatically clean the station while it is closed. The robots’ water filtration systems will save more than half of the water used by manual cleaning per month.

MTR says the robots are still at the learning stage, with their software and functions requiring continuous testing and adjustment. The operator will study how they can enhance station services, and will also gather passenger feedback.

The underframe inspection robot at Pat Heung Depot can scan the underframe of trains using image recognition and AI. If any abnormality is found, the robot will alert maintenance staff. MTR has also introduced real-time monitoring equipment on the East Rail Line to monitor the condition of pantographs during train operations. A data studio has been established to analyse data collected during operation, paving the way towards round-the-clock monitoring of railway facilities.

“MTR has been making use of new technology and equipment to assist staff in daily routine tasks and enhancing efficiency,” says MTR operations director, Dr Tony Lee. “Technology enables our station operation team to enhance customer service delivery, and the maintenance team on coming up with more forward-looking maintenance measures using big data and real-time monitoring. Talent remains the core of innovation and technology at MTR. We attach great importance to in-house development and training, and will continue to provide resources to our engineers to encourage them to explore innovative ideas.”