Chaos and frustration as Hong Kong train network is disrupted during rush hour

The MTR disruption lasted six hours. Many commuters were forced to turn to alternative public transport and there were snaking queues at bus stations and taxi stands. PHOTO: COURTESY OF TRAX CHIN

HONG KONG - The MTR disruption during rush hour on Tuesday morning (Oct 16) - caused by an unprecedented signalling fault - was the worst Ms Trax Chin had ever experienced on the train network.

A normal 30-minute journey from Lok Fu station - located where the 25-year-old business development executive lives - to her office in Quarry Bay turned into a frustrating four-hour trip.

"I'm very, very upset and I can't work and I have nothing to do but stand for four hours this morning," she said.

"The last time the MTR broke down in February or March, I was stuck in Wong Tai Sin station for about 30 minutes but after that the trains moved. Not today. I haven't seen this before."

She told The Straits Times she left the house at 8.15am, waited with other upset or bewildered commuters for an hour at the station, then paid HK$3 (S$0.53) or HK$4 to get out of the station so as to take the bus. The train is her only option for a direct non-stop journey to work.

"But 10 buses passed by me because they were all full and I waited for one hour 45 minutes for the bus," said a fuming Ms Chin.

"I have to take (bus) 113 and cross over to the harbour tunnel and go to Wan Chai and then take another bus to Quarry Bay and then the traffic jam took one and a half hours and I got to office at 12.30pm, so I stood for four hours!"

Ms Chin said she finally made it to the office, which was deserted because more than half the staff were held up by the MTR disruption, which lasted six hours.

Hong Konger Ivan Chan, a 30-year-old commuter, was at Diamond Hill station where the scene was chaotic, with 200 to 300 passengers already waiting in line for the train at 9am.

Upset and bewildered commuters had to find alternative forms of transport, such as the bus or tram. PHOTO: COURTESY OF IVAN CHAN

"The passengers weren't angry, just tired of the long wait. Personally, I'm not angry but I wonder why this would happen," he said.

His half-hour ride turned into a two-hour-long trip as the train stopped for at least 10 minutes at every station.

"The train would start and stop, doors would open and close and some of the passengers felt faint so they got out when they got the chance. I saw a medical personnel go to the aid of one of the passengers who wasn't feeling well," Mr Chan said.

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Singaporean Priscilla Quek, 27, works in finance and typically takes about 15 minutes to get to work in Central from Wan Chai station. She ended up opting for the tram instead.

She added that her friend took an Uber ride from Tai Koo to Central and paid HK$300 (S$53), which was "crazy" as it normally costs about HK$60 to HK$70.

Asked what MTR could have done to ease the situation, Ms Chin said: "As a citizen, I think they can't do anything except to give us some compensation for transportation because every time we cross the harbour tunnel, it costs us about HK$15 for one trip. If they can do something about it, I think it will help."

The rail operator has offered commuters half-price fares on a selected day as compensation for the disruption on Tuesday.

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