Days of rail Misery loom

Top News | Charlotte Luo 18 Sep 2019

East Rail services could remain disrupted for days after an MTR train derailed in Hung Hom Station yesterday, injuring eight people in only the second such incident involving a train with passengers in 40 years.

The mishap caused the suspension of services between Mong Kok East and Hung Hom stations.

It is unclear when the East Rail service can resume in full. MTR Corp says it could take days.

The rail operator said an investigative commission with external experts would be set up but the probe into the cause of the accident could take three to six months.

MTRC operations director Adi Lau Tin-shing said last night there were three cracks on the rail - two of which were 30 millimeters wide and the third was one millimeter, but it was unclear whether the cracks appeared before the derailment or were caused by it.

An eight-meter rail was replaced in the station the night before, but it was more than 100 meters away from where the derailment happened. Lau did not see any connection to the accident at this point.

The 12-car train was approaching Hung Hom station, the final stop on the East Rail line, when three compartments broke off during the morning rush hour around 8.30am.

The fourth and fifth compartments split, stopping on two different tracks in an S-shape.

The fourth compartment was severely damaged, with a door flying onto the track.

By 6pm yesterday, the MTRC had completed evidence collection before the carriages could be taken away. One had already been hoisted back onto the track.

There will be another round of evidence collection after the carriages are lifted. Repair work can start only after the evidence collection.

Lau said he would not speculate on the cause of the derailment, but said there are three possibilities: objects on the tracks, a rail defect, or a train malfunction.

The challenge was how to put two other derailed carriages back on the track.

"The staff are still working very hard," he said. "We will do our best to resume the service hopefully within days."

Lau said a thorough inspection will be conducted to check the train, tracks and all components in the area.

Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan, who arrived at the scene at 10.30am, said the incident was extremely serious.

When asked if the incident was caused by sabotage, Chan said he would not rule out any possibilities "but at this stage we won't speculate on any particular suggestions."

MTRc chairman Rex Auyeung Pak-kuen apologized for the incident.

Auyeung visited an injured passenger at Queen Elizabeth Hospital at about 4pm.

He said the passenger's condition was stable and the company would consider compensation for the injured.

Of eight injured, one man and four women were sent to hospital with head, shoulder and hand injuries.

About 100 passengers left the train on their own, while another 400 were moved out by firemen who rushed to the scene.

Lau said the surveillance footage only caught the train entering the station and the moment of the derailment.

When asked whether the train was affected by foreign objects, Lau said evidence collection can only start after the carriages are removed.

The train was running at a relatively slow speed of about 48 kilometers per hour when it entered Hung Hom Station.

The train was bought in 1983 and had been renovated. It had a service expectancy of more than 40 years, Lau said.

The Electrical and Mechanical Services Department will establish the investigative committee.

Department director Alfred Sit Wing-hang asked the public to be patient in waiting for its findings.

"At this moment we don't have any speculation on suggestions of a cause of the incident. I'm going to conduct a thorough, comprehensive and independent investigation to make sure the root cause of the incident will be found out," Sit said.

Sit said it is also possible that objects thrown onto the tracks could have caused the incident, but there is no evidence so far.

charlotte.luo@singtaonewscorp.com

More reports:

Panic, fears of dying as train shook like a roller coaster

Buses pick up slack amid crippled services

That makes it three accidents this year so far

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