Commuter chaos after MTR failure

Top News | Sum Lok-kei 19 May 2017

Train services affecting thousands of commuters on their way home were disrupted as a four-hour power failure demobilized a train between Hung Hom and Mong Kok East.

The service disruption could trigger a second fine for the MTRC this year.

The rail giant blamed a broken overhead power cable between Mong Kok East and Hung Hom station on the East Rail line.

Francis Li Shing-kee, chief of operating, East region, said a train was stopped on the track due to the power cut.

"A train heading from Hung Hom station to Mong Kok East station [was stopped] 400 meters away from [its destination]," Li said.

About 110 passengers had to walk along the track to reach the closest station.

On closer inspection, engineers found the overhead cable was torn and equipment attached to the train's roof damaged, said MTRC's head of infrastructure works Wong Lu.

A passenger at Hung Hom station complained: "For over an hour, I was told to go from one platform to another. How is this a minor malfunction?" Others slammed the company for providing sub-par services.

The company announced at 3pm yesterday that traffic heading to Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau was suspended between Hung Hom and Sha Tin stations.

After about 30 minutes, the stoppage was narrowed to the three stations between Hung Hom and Kowloon Tong.

Prolonged waiting times applied to both directions on the line, with trains running at 10-minute intervals between Kowloon Tong and Lo Wu, and every 20 minutes to Lok Ma Chau.

MTRC staff were deployed to control the fast-gathering crowds at the affected stations and passengers were advised to switch to other means of transport.

Many passengers were stuck at one of the most popular junctions on the MTR system at Kowloon Tong station.

At 4pm, a free shuttle bus service was arranged to move passengers from Hung Hom to Kowloon Tong stations, but it did not stop at Mong Kok East.

While trains between Kowloon Tong and Hung Hom remained suspended, at 5.20pm the operator shortened the interval of trains from Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau to Kowloon Tong to between four and minutes.

The affected train was able to reach Mong Kok East at 5.30pm, but it not until 7.30pm that the MTRC said normal service was "gradually resuming."

Ben Chan Han-pan, chairman of the Legislative Council's railway subcommittee, said this episode of service disruption could cost the MTRC as much as HK$5 million.

While engineers were able to locate the default in a short amount of time, Chan said it took the operator too long to resume normal services.

"The incident began in the afternoon and lasted until the evening peak hours," Chan said.

He believed there was a need for the MTRC to review the outage yesterday as well as a power failure that happened in April. "The MTRC should combine the investigation of the two incidents and see if there is a systemic issue, for example, in quality of parts and maintenance methods," Chan said.

He added that the MTRC's image had been hurt by the failures.

In April a power failure caused by a misplaced power cable affected the Kwun Tong line during peak hours, with trains stopped mid-way and hundreds of passengers trapped.

Some had to exit the carriages and walk back to the closest station through dark tunnels.

Services were disrupted for over two hours and the MTRC was fined HK$3 million.

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