MTR was asked in 2008 by Hong Kong’s Special Administrative Region government to plan, design and construct the Hong Kong section of XRL, and work started in January 2010. However, difficult ground conditions, the flooding of a tunnel  and the discovery of unmapped utilities delayed the opening of the line by three years and pushed the final pricetag to more than $HK 84bn ($US 10.75bn), 30% over the initial budget.

XRL is designed for three-minute headways, and in the initial phase of operations MTR and Guangzhou Railway Company (GRC) will run 82 shuttle trains in each direction daily between West Kowloon and Guangzhou South, a major hub on the Chinese high-speed network.

In addition to MTR’s Vibrant Express shuttle services, West Kowloon is served by 13 long-distance trains per day linking Hong Kong with major mainland cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Wuhan.

Services from West Kowloon reach Shenzhen North in 19 minutes and Guangzhou South in 48 minutes.

The line is forecast to carry more than 100,000 passengers per day in the first year of operation, increasing to 150,000 per day by 2031.

“The brand-new cross-boundary railway service offers fast, convenient and comfortable connections to the Mainland of China,” says says Professor Frederick Ma, chairman of MTR Corporation. “Passengers can complete both Hong Kong and mainland clearance procedures in one place at Hong Kong West Kowloon Station and then board trains to 44 mainland destinations directly without interchange, providing them with a good travel choice for leisure or business. With Hong Kong’s advantageous geographical location, I hope the XRL (Hong Kong Section) not only brings closer regional ties, but also fully unleashes its economic benefits.”

A detailed description of the project and its constructional challenges can be viewed here.