Warning as MTR logs 86 delays
Transport officials have warned the disruption-prone MTR Corporation that it could face punishment if there is another serious service breakdown.
But the warning, which followed 86 disruptions of eight minutes or more within 92 days between July and September, was greeted with cynicism by lawmakers citing a lack of action in the past by the government, which is the rail operator's biggest shareholder.
Documents submitted by the MTR yesterday to a special meeting of the Legislative Council's transport panel on railways showed that 64, or 70 per cent, of the disruptions resulted from equipment failure or human error, an increase from 56 such cases for the same period last year.
More than a third were on East Rail, the former Kowloon-Canton Railway line and the oldest in the MTR's network.
Undersecretary for transport and housing Yau Shing-mu said the bureau had written to top management of MTR after a 191 minute-delay on the Tsuen Wan line last year, asking the rail operator to 'pledge to undertake all remedial measures and contingency plans'.
'If similar things happen again in future, with such a large-scale impact and failure to enforce the contingency plans, the government actually has some punitive measures according to the legislation,' he said.
But Legco transport panel chairman Andrew Cheng Kar-foo said the government had never imposed any punishment on the railway giant, not even a monetary one.
He questioned the adequacy of railway maintenance staff to cope with the ageing lines' needs.
The incidents recorded between July and September resulted in a total 968 minutes of delays.
One, which lasted 36 minutes, was due to a faulty electronic card in the track circuit on the Tung Chung line.
Despite the incidents, the government said passengers were not endangered.
'Although there was a slight increase of incidents this year, we were not of the opinion that this has constituted [dangers] towards the railway system's safety,' Yau said.
But Cheng said officials needed to be more alert. 'If the government's still satisfied with such figures, it's a culprit,' he said.
Cheng suggested the government should introduce a safety index based on the frequency and number of incidents in the MTR system.
Li Fung-ying, the labour constituency legislator said the government was an ineffective supervisor of the railways. 'Some [incidents] could actually be foreseen and improved,' she said. The MTR said it would act on recommendations in a report commissioned from an Australian university to deal with rail cracks that sparked public concerns in the past couple of years.
The length in kilometres of rail line operated by the MTR. It has 86 railway stations and 69 light rail stops