Ngong Ping 360

More checks could have caught cable car defect

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 May, 2015, 12:15pm

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The design of Lantau's Ngong Ping 360 cable car is safe, officials at the attraction insist, but an incident that left passengers shivering in mid-air might have been avoided if more checks had been made.

Operations at Ngong Ping 360 were suspended for 10 days after more than 800 passengers spent up to two hours stuck in gondolas on Wednesday in temperatures as low as three degrees Celsius.

It was the latest in a series of mechanical failures to hit the troubled MTR Corporation-managed attraction in recent months.

The failure led to calls from the Australian company which originally ran the network for the government to stop blaming operators for the system's problems.

'By analysing everyday signals in routine checks, we could have noticed indications [pointing] to a problem,' said Frank Chan Fan (pictured), the government's director of electrical and mechanical services.

Chan said an investigation would examine whether mechanics could have spotted the faults earlier. He urged immediate action to avoid a repeat of the problem.

Ngong Ping 360 managing directors Wilson Shao Shing-ming admitted that deficiencies in the maintenance system would have to be rectified, but said checks were carried out before the busy Lunar New Year holiday period.

Engineers have previously blamed heavy usage for the problems that have dogged the Ngong Ping 360 cable-car system since it opened in 2006.

After an empty cable car plunged to the ground in 2007, experts said the system should be in operation for no more than 250 hours per month to allow sufficient time for maintenance.

The attraction's original operator, Australian company Skyrail-ITM, came under fire from the government for that accident, in which an employee pressed an incorrect button during a brake test.

Skyrail-ITM's 20-year contract to run the attraction was handed over to the MTR Corporation after only one year.

'Circumstances since then [2007] speak for themselves,' Skyrail-ITM chief executive officer Dr Ken Chapman said of the recent spate of incidents.

While he would not comment specifically on Wednesday's failure, Chapman said Hongkongers could reach the 'obvious conclusions' from the recent problems.

Leitner, which built the cable-car system, has sent a team of engineers to investigate problems with the Ngong Ping 360 service. It could not be contacted for comment yesterday.

A spokeswoman for Ocean Park, which also operates a cable-car system, said yesterday that since a public notification system was introduced in October last year, there had not been any incidents that had delayed journeys for more than 20 minutes.

The spokeswoman said the cable-car system at the theme park in Aberdeen was safe and reliable.