The government has revealed that there are four more “back of house areas” between the existing B1 to B5 levels at the West Kowloon terminus of the high-speed rail link.

The Transport and Housing Bureau issued a statement at 11pm on Thursday saying that the levels were for use in case of emergency and fire. The revelation came after local media exposed the existence of an unknown B5 level. The MTR Corporation – which manages the rail link – said the floor was for the maintenance of tracks and emergency fire exits. Chief Executive Carrie Lam denied that the government was hiding information, saying that such “back of house” areas were common in large-scale projects.

The bureau has maintained that the four areas were included in the 430,000 square-metre construction floor area it announced before.

west kowloon terminus
Diagram showing the height of the floors.

It said the areas are not for passenger use, and that no-one will be allowed to enter the areas other than workers performing their duties with authorisation from MTRC, or in cases of emergency.

“All exits and entrances to back of house areas, including relevant passageways, doors and lifts that connect with the public areas or the Mainland Port Area in the [West Kowloon station], are locked by security systems,” it said.

The bureau said the zones were not part of the Mainland Port Area, the one million square feet area within the station that has now come under mainland Chinese jurisdiction for implementation of the joint checkpoint plan.

The Mainland Port Area comprises the designated areas on the B2 and B3 Levels, the platform areas on the B4 Level and the relevant connecting passageways.

The bureau said the MTRC has a “stringent control mechanism” and the company has assigned patrols to prevent unauthorised entry into the back of house areas. Closed-circuit television and alarm systems have been installed with clear warning signs to prevent unauthorised people from entering, it said.

West Kowloon terminus Express Rail Link
Members of the public visiting the West Kowloon terminus of the Express Rail Link. Photo: GovHK.

The four extra levels include a “B1M level” above the B1 Ticketing Hall, a “B2H level” above the B2 Arrival Level, a “B3M/B3H level” above the B3 Departure Level, and a “B4M level” above the B4 Platform Level.

The bureau said a single level at the West Kowloon terminus typically has a floor area of around 110,000 square metres, and the floor areas of the extra levels combined amounted to between 4,200 and 10,300 square metres.

Facilities in the extra levels comprise:

B1M level: ventilation shafts, offices of the railway operator, machine rooms for the air conditioning system, and a restaurant open to the public;

B2H level: ventilation shafts and a refuse collection room;

B3M level: a public passageway to the subway that connects to Lin Cheung Road;

B3H level: all back of house areas in the station with ventilation shafts installed;

B4M level: offices of the railway operator, switch rooms and machine rooms for the air conditioning system, refuse collection and equipment maintenance rooms.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.