Cable-car wear spotted last year 'was normal'
Claims that the main cable holding Lantau's troubled Ngong Ping 360 cable cars was found to be worn during an annual check last year were confirmed yesterday.
Ngong Ping 360 managing director Wilson Shao Shing-ming said the incident did occur and it was decided that, following repair works, there was no need to halt operations.
Safety at the tourist attraction has been questioned since services were suspended last month after a bullwheel bearing showed undue wear.
Experts explained that the gondolas hung off the main cable, which should wear out at a known rate.
'The wear on the metal cable is normal because the system runs non-stop. Repair works were done immediately,' Shao said in a radio interview.
A company spokesperson said the wear had been slight and the overseas experts who performed an annual check from May to June had assessed it again following repairs to confirm it was safe. The incident was reported to the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department.
Professor Lo Kok-keung, an engineer from Polytechnic University's mechanical engineering department, said cables were subject to wear and tear just like train tracks and could snap if the damage was severe.
But he said it was unlikely the cables would break as they were made to withstand high levels of stress, and regular checks should spot any damage at an early stage.
Even if a cable did break, the gondolas were unlikely to fall, as there was a secondary 'haul rope' keeping them in place, Lo said.
Shao said yesterday that the company had more than 10 service engineers on duty during the day and six or seven of them at night. But Lo suggested the late shift should be better staffed, as most repairs were carried out when the system closed down for the night.
Operations at the cable car, which ferries passengers from Tung Chung to Ngong Ping village, were suspended for two months after 800 passengers were left hanging in mid-air for two hours on an extremely cold night on January 25.
Shao said seven bearings, including the faulty one, were being replaced, while staff were being given customer-service training.
Retailers in Ngong Ping village, which can only be reached by bus during the cable-car suspension, were getting help with operation costs as well as special offers to entice people to visit.
According to a written reply by Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Greg So Kam-leung to the Legislative Council on Wednesday, the cable car has been subject to 23 stoppages since its launch in September 2006.
Eleven of those occurred in its first year, under the management of Skyrail-ITM. The remainder have happened since Ngong Ping 360 took over in 2007. The company has received 290 complaints since 2008.