Jockey Club recruits crowd control expert
ONE of the world's leading experts on crowd control has been recruited by the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club to minimise the risk of crushing and to tackle the impact of race-day congestion.
Crowd behavioural psychologist Alan Marsden is studying physical barriers to smooth the movement of punters at Sha Tin.
Mr Marsden - who gave advice after the Lan Kwai Fong New Year's Eve tragedy and provided input for the management of the Mass Transit Railway and the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation - witnessed the season's last meeting on June 5, which was the second largest crowd in racing history.
He has recommended minor structural changes to the KCR connection.
However, Mr Marsden praised the club's overall crowd control and the strength of its relationship with emergency services.
It is understood he will later study the layout of Happy Valley.
''Basically, I have been extremely impressed with the attention to detail they have put into all aspects of crowd management,'' he said from his London office.
Mr Marsden said he discussed his concern over the bottleneck which developed on the bridge at the concourse level of the KCR.
He said people sitting on steps and in passage-ways was also disturbing.
The club has asked Mr Marsden to give advice on changes to turnstiles to quicken the flow of people.
The club's security controller, David Twynham, stressed the hiring of a crowd consultant did not reflect inadequate procedures.
''We are very reluctant to allow the club to become complacent in any way in regard to any of our safety matters,'' he said. ''We are considering looking at ways of improving crowd management.
''With so many people, the safety of our customers and our staff is something with which we are always concerned.'' It is believed Mr Marsden's brief may stretch to updating standard operating procedures for proper crowd dispersal and abandoning race meetings on rainy days.
Action may also be taken to examine procedures for dealing with a bomb threat in terms of ensuring crowd movement without panic.
Police deputy director of operations, Assistant Commissioner Brian Wigley, said police were anxious to continually upgrade measures.
He welcomed the club's recruitment of a crowd control expert.
''We have always taken a cautious view of crowds at race meetings,'' he said.
''Generally speaking, the crowds have always been pretty well behaved so we have been very fortunate in that regard.
''But, because of the large crowds, the possibility of a problem developing is always there.''