HK subway operator faces fine for delay

Passengers waiting at the Kwun Tong station after MTR services were disrupted on Monday.
Passengers waiting at the Kwun Tong station after MTR services were disrupted on Monday.PHOTO: SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST

HONG KONG • A power fault caused a 21/2-hour delay in Hong Kong's Mass Transit Railway (MTR) subway services during rush hour earlier this week, plunging traffic in east Kowloon into chaos.

Stranded passengers on Monday evening were forced to walk along rail tracks in the dark and line up with hundreds of others for shuttle buses or other forms of public transport, the South China Morning Post reported.

Eight people were taken to hospital for checks after they complained of feeling sick in stuffy trains when the outage knocked out the air-conditioning.

The incident, which triggered the suspension of services at eight stations along the Kwun Tong Line, began at about 6pm.

Speaking on a Radio Television Hong Kong programme yesterday morning, Mr Michael Tien Puk Sun, chairman of the Legislative Council's Panel on Transport, said technicians spent only 10 minutes to fix the affected cable once it was found, but took a much longer time to locate the source of the fault.

"Power failures are inevitable for railway systems... But the real issue here is that MTR could not find out where the problem was for more than an hour," Mr Tien said, adding that MTR Corporation may face a fine of up to HK$3 million (S$543,000).

The subway operator yesterday said staff were dispatched to the tracks to locate the source of the outage as soon as it was able to narrow the search to between the Kowloon Bay and Kowloon Tong stations.

Manually screening the tracks with the naked eye, MTR staff took some time to spot a barely noticeable misaligned cable that was causing the power failure, the subway operator said.

The cause of the misalignment was a damaged cable accessory, according to the Ming Pao news site.

An internal investigation report is expected within two months, said MTR.

Hong Kong's rail system, which handles about 5.6 million passenger trips on a normal weekday, is considered one of the most reliable in the world.

But lawmaker Edward Lau Kwok Fan, chairman of the Traffic and Transport Committee, has called on MTR, which was established in 1975, to review its ageing equipment and improve its emergency measures.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2017, with the headline 'HK subway operator faces fine for delay'. Print Edition | Subscribe