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  • Apr 20, 2014
  • Updated: 4:32am
CommentInsight & Opinion

MTR Corp must respond swiftly to address concerns after power failure

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 December, 2013, 5:21am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 December, 2013, 5:29am

The MTR's reach, efficiency and high standards are such that many of us have come to depend on its services. Understandably, then, when something goes wrong, as happened on the Tseung Kwan O line on Monday, there is immediate frustration and anger. But the power failure that brought trains to a halt for almost five hours was, by the company's criteria and the expectations of Hong Kong people, no ordinary breakdown. The reason for the chaos that ensued has to be thoroughly investigated so that measures are put in place to prevent a repeat.

Early findings point to a 30-metre section of overhead power cable between Yau Tong and Tiu Keng Leng stations having come loose. The power outage is suspected to have resulted from a train coming into contact with the cable, which had been checked the previous night by MTR contractors. An MTR Corp official said it expected of contractors the same standards it applied to itself. But there are any number of reasons behind such a failure and conclusions should not be drawn or fingers pointed until the MTR Corp's report is released.

As with any major incident on the MTR network, a preliminary report has to be in government hands within three days. Such promptness is essential given the importance of the MTR to our city; it is one of the busiest rail systems in the world, carrying passengers who make 4.4 million trips a day. But its significance goes far beyond the numbers. Tseung Kwan O district, like many others in our city, is built around and heavily reliant on trains for transportation needs.

It is because of that reliance that the 12.40pm outage threw commuter transport along the line and throughout the MTR network into disarray. Buses struggled to cope and streets in Tseung Kwan O were quickly choked. The shutting down of much of the rail line backed up traffic elsewhere on the network. Stations were flooded with confused passengers, many complaining about a lack of information.

There has not been so serious a breakdown for a decade. The MTR's world-class reputation has been dented. Service disruptions are uncommon, but not rare; a fire on the Tseung Kwan O line's North Point platform in January caused three-hour delays. But accidents that cannot be foreseen also happen and that has to be taken into account whenever trains are delayed. If the latest incident was preventable, though, responsibility has to be quickly determined and fixes made.

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This article is now closed to comments

johnyuan
May I ask that for an unprecedented operational breakdown of the rail service for five hours, why it was only a deputy director of MTRC spoke?Was the director in town? If not, personal or business? After all, the director’s salary is no peanuts to justify being silent and absent.
johnyuan
‘ An MTR Corp official said it expected of contractors the same standards it applied to itself.'So MTRC only do business development and subcontract out maintenance work and expect the contractor is as obligated to be as good. It is both a childish statement of an individual MTRC employee as well as the colossal mistake made years ago in privatizing an almost perfectly ran infrastructure that Hong Kong so proud of. Its time that the outstanding 50% of private ownership should be bought back by the government (public) and run our trains as a public infrastructure should. For our trains, profit to a few individuals is not the motive but service to the public is.
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In fact, concentrate your attention on our trains and not hunting around in China and elsewhere to expand. Your business model using housing to pay for the rail and station is unnecessary for any city that long term government bond can be structured. Besides it is a poison to affordable housing. So stay put and take good care of the trains here in Hong Kong.
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CY Leung, this is another chanllenge for you to win back the good services by the old MTRC.

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