Group ComputingJBCEMB

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Team members

  • Jonny Blake
  • Chris Edmunds
  • Mike Bradford

Technology contributing to the efficiency of the MTR

The MTR is incredibly efficient, transporting over 5 million people per day. Therefore, the aim of this project was to research and investigate the efficiency of the MTR technology with regards to the amount of time saved on a journey.

Each technology researched was compared to an alternative technology (e.g. purchasing a single ticket instead of an Octopus card) and how much time is saved/lost in each.

The technologies compared are outlined below:

Passing the barrier (Octopus card) Passing the barrier (Purchasing a single ticket)
Changing trains on the optimized route. Changing trains at a different station
Peak train intervals Off-peak train intervals

Passing through the barrier

The barriers at each MTR can process cards instantly. This allows a high volume of passengers to pass through at a time, thus increasing the time efficiency of their journey.

Therefore, this section compares the efficiency of the Octopus card VS purchasing of a single ticket (as if the Octopus technology didn't exist).


  • Record a video of purchasing a ticket from the ticket machine.
  • Record a video of using the Octopus card with the Octopus card scanner.
  • Compare and contrast the time taken on each.
  • Further research technologies to provide background.

Video comparison


Technology Time taken (s)
Octopus Card ~38 secs
Single ticket purchase ~2 secs


From the results above, it is clear that the Octopus card is significantly faster than purchasing a single ticket.

In this test, as the Octopus card took ~2 secs to process. Therefore, this technology is one of the factors behind the high efficiency (with regards to time) of each journey.

Octopus technology findings

  • Uses non-standard RFID, thus allowing for ranges between 3cm -> 10cm
  • Uses relaying system to a local area network, thus allowing information to be stored locally and improving the time taken to process each card. Information is then transmitted periodically to a centralised, remote database.
  • Uses the maximum speed for radio frequency (212 kbit/s). Faster than cards such as Visa Cash (9.6 kbit/s).


Track layouts in stations

  • Tracks in stations are lined up to make common transfers between trains easy; the trains are lined up next to each other on multiple levels.
  • The timing of the trains is set up so that people transferring do not have to wait for their connecting train.
  • This section evaluates how this optimisation improves the efficiency of train transfers.



  • Record a video of using a popular transfer between trains.
  • Record a video of using a different transfer that isn't optimised for faster transfer times.
  • Compare and contrast the time taken on each.

Video comparison

Transferring from Tseung Kwan O line to Island line at Quarry Bay vs North Point.


Transfer method Time taken
Efficient/optimal ~1m 24s
Less efficient transfer ~4m 11s


Optimising the train stations saves passengers several minutes off their journey and reduces crowding on platforms.

Transfer efficiency findings

Approximately 3 minutes are saved on every transfer.

Train frequency


To improve the efficiency of the MTR and prevent congestion the frequency of trains varies throughout the day so that the trains are more frequent during peak times before and after work


We timed the trains coming through the MTR throughout the day to spot the variation in frequency

  • Approximate wait time for Island line from Admiralty for peak time is 35 seconds.
  • Approximate wait time for Island line from Admiralty for off-peak time is 2 minutes.


From the lack of serious congestion on the MTR and near total absence of late trains with a 99.9% on time rating, you can see that the current system is a very effective at providing exactly the right amount of transport for the demand it receives. This is partially facilitated by the use of a communication system between the trains which shares their speeds and timings allowing for the frequency of trains to shift up and down without causing a collision.