Minister blasts cable car firm over failures
The government ordered a full inspection of the Lantau cable car yesterday after hundreds of passengers were left shivering in mid-air for up to two hours.
Commerce secretary Greg So Kam-leung criticised the Ngong Ping 360 company, which operates the tourist attraction, over its lack of communication during the incident on Wednesday.
Officials said the company failed to keep stranded passengers updated about how long their ordeal in the cabins - in temperatures of 3 degrees Celsius - was expected to last.
Announcements should also have been made at MTR stations as soon as the service was halted.
So, who held talks with company executives yesterday, said: 'The communication mechanism is not satisfactory. It is not acceptable to us.'
In the fourth incident involving the cable car in two months, the cabins stopped moving after an alert was triggered by the automatic monitoring system.
The company, a subsidiary of the MTR Corp, later said the alarm went off after a worn bearing was detected.
It said the service would be suspended for 10 days while thorough checks were carried out.
European experts from the manufacturer of the six-year-old system are expected to arrive in the next few days to assist with the investigation.
Ngong Ping 360 managing director Wilson Shao said the existing communications mechanisms in case of an incident covered the Hong Kong public as well as tourists.
If the service was likely to be suspended for more than 30 minutes, notices would be placed in MTR stations and electronic media notified.
He said both these mechanisms were activated in Wednesday's incident. But he admitted there was room for improvement to 'meet customer expectations'.
For example, passengers inside the cabin should have been kept informed of the incident via a live broadcast system. But he refused to comment on whether anyone should resign over the shutdown.
The incident was the latest in the cable car's troubled history since it opened in September 2006.
In March 2008, 200 passengers were stranded for 50 minutes due to a faulty conveyor belt. Another 250 passengers were left in mid-air in May 2008 because of a faulty sensor.
Engineers were yesterday trying to find ways to avoid similar incidents, which critics said marred the city's reputation as a tourist hub.
Such incidents could also hit the development of tourism on Lantau, which was a cause advocated by chief executive candidate Henry Tang Ying-yen when he was financial secretary.
The 2004 Lantau Development plan was put together to turn the island into a world-class tourism hub, with the cable car as one of its major elements. Travel Industry Council chairman Michael Wu Siu-ieng said up to 4,000 tour visitors would be affected by the 10-day suspension.
For those who had bought redemption coupons for tickets in advance, Ngong Ping 360 chief Shao said temporary counters would be set up in the Lai King, Hong Kong and Kowloon Tong MTR stations for refunds or a change of dates.