MTR fire highlights need for better contingency plans

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 August, 2008, 12:00am

I was on board the MTR train which had to stop in an underground tunnel ('Train fire forces 180 commuters to walk through tunnel to safety', August 8). After leaving Shau Kei Wan station I heard a sudden bang and saw smoke coming from the end of one carriage.

We heard more bangs and the train stopped in the tunnel. Only some of the lights inside the train remained switched on and I could hear a baby crying. The air conditioning was shut down.

After a while the train operator told us to open the emergency doors. There was already smoke inside the carriage and I heard more bangs at the side of the carriage I was in and saw sparks. Some passengers began to panic.

What I experienced as one of the 180 passengers on board, illustrated to me the importance for the MTR Corporation to have effective contingency plans in place to deal with incidents like this.

We had to walk for 10 minutes through a dark tunnel to get to the platform at Heng Fa Chuen station and from there to the lobby.

The train operator said MTR staff would take care of us. But as we walked through the tunnel we could not see any staff.

It was an unpleasant walk with rocks on the ground. Some of the commuters included babies and young children.

When we got to the lobby after a 10-minute walk there were no MTR members of staff to offer any first aid services. Finally we found one uniformed MTR employee.

We searched in vain for someone who could offer us some water, tell us about transfer arrangements and deal with ticket refunds. There was a great deal of confusion. In future, the MTR Corp must have a far more efficient contingency plan, so that people are fully informed.

Most of us travel on the MTR every day. We rely on the corporation to provide an efficient and safe service.

I hope the MTR Corp will draw important lessons from this incident and that if something like this happens again, they have people on hand to take care of passengers.

Melissa Ting, Tsim Sha Tsui