Move MTR line, rehab centre pleads

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 August, 2009, 12:00am

The operator of a Wong Chuk Hang rehabilitation centre has demanded that the MTR move its planned South Island Line further away from its buildings, which house more than 250 autistic or mentally disabled residents.

Noise from construction, to begin in 2011, and the line's operation might agitate vulnerable residents to the extent they could harm themselves or others, the operator says.

More than 1,800 people with various disabilities live in the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals Jockey Club Rehabilitation Centre, including 261 who are autistic or mentally disabled.

The South Island Line will run between Admiralty and South Horizons with three intermediate stations, including Wong Chuk Hang. The railway, on a 24-metre-high viaduct, will be about 10 metres from one of the centre's buildings, assistant superintendent Allan Ho Kam-cheung said.

'We used to be very happy about the construction of the South Island Line, but now it has turned into a nightmare. The railway is too high and too near,' Mr Ho said.

The viaduct would also block views from the building's first two floors, he said.

Mr Ho quoted research by New Zealand's Massey University that found noise annoyed autistic people. For children with the condition, it caused pain, distress and confusion as well as eroded their ability to learn.

'What others perceive as normal and tolerable can be extremely intense and painful to them,' he said.

If the line could not be moved, the height of the viaduct should be reduced and it should be fitted with noise barriers, he said.

The call was backed by parents who said their mentally disabled children had hurt themselves and put others at risk when agitated by noise.

Y. M. Wong, whose 33-year-old autistic son has lived at the centre for 11 years, said he had hurt himself and others when disturbed by noise. 'He can't talk. He hurts himself in order to convey his feelings,' she said. He would bang his head against a wall and bite his hands, sometimes so severely he needed hospital treatment.

Mrs Wong, who has breast cancer, said she could not take care of her son herself and the centre's services were essential to her.

Rebecca Chan said her 28-year-old autistic son had overturned tables and shattered glass when he lost his temper, which could be triggered just by the sound of a motorcycle.

An MTR spokeswoman said the company has just started working on the detailed design of the railway and it would do all it technically could to minimise the impact on the centre.

The Transport and Housing Bureau said it had been in close touch with the centre and was aware of its management's concerns. 'In this respect, the government has instructed the MTR to take full account of the views of the centre when carrying out detailed design of the South Island Line,' a spokesman said.