LRT crashes prompt driver skills course

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 August, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 August, 1995, 12:00am

THE Light Rail Transit (LRT) railway has put its entire driving team on a defensive driving course.

More than 300 drivers signed on for the 70-hour, 20-day course on defensive driving at the Hong Kong School of Motoring.

They were drilled in the importance of staying alert and how to deal with potential crises on the tracks.

At a cost of $150,000, the course has become LRT's largest investment in polishing drivers' skills during its seven-year history.

The drivers, aged between 24 and 40, were taught techniques for assessing road conditions, emergency handling, steady speed and caring for passenger safety.

They were given advice on how to beat stress arising from driving the train on roads and junctions shared with other vehicles.

The Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation, which designed the system serving 320,000 commuters a day in Tuen Mun and Yuen Long, called its brainchild the 'New Town Dragon'.

But the safety record has been blotted by several accidents involving deaths and injuries of drivers, pedestrians and animals on the tracks criss-crossing the towns.

Recently, a light rail train driver confessed during a trial into LRT's worst accident that he had been nervous every time he drove past the junctions along his routes.

The accident killed two people and injured more than 40 when two light rail trains sandwiched a coach at one of the 80 junctions in September last year.

About a month before the tragedy, an LRT driver was killed when his train collided with a truck.

And last Wednesday, cows strayed on to the LRT track near Tin Shui Wai and were crushed when the driver failed to brake in time.

This month, a man and his three-year-old son escaped serious injury when their bicycle collided with an LRT train.

A report by the LRT's Passenger Liaison Group found the skills of some drivers were 'not up to standard and the journey was not smooth'.

School of Motoring senior training officer Eddie Cho Chi-cheong said the drivers had been under stress driving trains on roads without gates to keep off other vehicles.

'They need to learn to keep their emotions under control and never get too annoyed,' Mr Cho said.

'They are driving on open roads where there are many junctions. There are also motorists who jump traffic lights, and people who run across the tracks.' Mr Cho said the intensive course, tailor-made for LRT drivers, covered the common psychology of motorists and taught drivers to be observant.

Some drivers also gained experience in reacting swiftly to emergencies.

LRT internal training manager So Hon-choi said drivers gained insight into what it was like to be a third party in relation to the light rail system.

'Unlike other vehicles, the light rail trains cannot swerve to avoid a crash.'