MTR platform doors would not reduce suicides but drive them elsewhere

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 February, 2012, 12:00am


I note the 'scientific' response from Paul Yip Siu-fai of the University of Hong Kong and Stephen Law of Chinese University ( 'Platform doors help with suicide prevention', February 3) to my letter ('Platform doors are pointless', January 25).

While I do not doubt such doors are an effective deterrent against people throwing themselves on to the track, I do doubt that they contribute to a lower suicide rate overall in Hong Kong.

Indeed, published statistics indicate that the suicide rate has, if anything, increased slightly over recent years, and this despite platform doors already being the norm in the air-conditioned stations.

It would appear the suicides merely move elsewhere (as does the trauma to people involved in dealing with the aftermath).

I also doubt the scientists' conclusion that 'despite the high cost of platform screen doors, our study has shown it is still cost-effective'.

My own, admittedly 'fag packet' analysis suggests otherwise. It indicates that the capital cost of installing part-height platform doors at the 24 open-air stations of the MTR Corporation's East Rail, West Rail, Tsuen Wan and Ma On Shan lines would be at least HK$1.2 billion (24 times, say, HK$50 million per station).

Given that your correspondents predicted 30 suicides over the next 10 years, this works out at HK$40 million to prevent each suicide, and this excludes the running, maintenance, finance and staff costs associated with the platform doors.

To me this is a staggering misuse of funds, particularly for a society where thousands die prematurely each year from air pollution and inadequate medical and social care because of lack of funding.

I am, of course, saddened by all suicides, but I suggest that it is primarily for the government, assisted by voluntary organisations, to provide resources for welfare and care of the vulnerable in society so that fewer persons feel driven to suicide.

I hasten to add that I have no objection to platform doors at the open-air stations, provided these serve other, more justifiable, operational needs of the railway and its passengers. However, I would be interested to know what these are.

Doug Miller, Tai Po