• Sun
  • Dec 28, 2014
  • Updated: 11:04am
My Take
PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 August, 2014, 4:30am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 August, 2014, 4:40am

Hong Kong's MTR should have shown some humanity over stray dog

The Mass Transit Railway has blood on its hands. Train command centre staff could have saved a stray dog which accidentally wandered onto the tracks of its East Rail line. Instead, they chose to keep the trains running rather than cause a delay that would have provided enough time for rescuers to get the dog to safety.

The incident has rightly caused outrage. Animal lovers and rights campaigners laid flowers and put up banners at Fanling station where the stray was struck by a train on Wednesday. An online campaign against the rail operator collected thousands of signatures in just a few hours.

MTR staff at Sheung Shui station where the animal first appeared tried all of six minutes to rescue it. This involved lowering a chair - a chair! - to the tracks, perhaps in the hope that the scared dog would sit on it steadily enough so staff could raise it to the passenger platform. The rescue attempt was not only inadequate, but absurd.

Normally, in similar situations, officials in charge of public sites would call animal catchers from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department to help. But according to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the MTR had no "procedures" in place on how to handle stray animals on train tracks. It is, however, under enormous pressure to keep trains running on time.

The operator has been plagued by problems great and small recently, such as a massive cost overrun and delay in the construction of the Hong Kong section of the express rail link to Shenzhen and Guangzhou.

Relentless media focus on its not infrequent system malfunctions leading to train delays has added to the pressure. No doubt command centre staff have been instructed in no uncertain terms by people higher up to make every effort to keep trains running on time. But the unfortunate stray dog was one case where staff would have been more than justified to cause a delay until it was evacuated.

The MTR is still world-class despite all its problems. Alas, showing greater flexibility and humanity would have made it an even better company. It might even have been good public relations.

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16

This article is now closed to comments

jenny@asian-emphasis.com
Now, if it was a child on the tracks, would you stop the train then? Of course you would. People should think of others for a little while, instead of trying to save a nanosecond or two to get somewhere.
Why do many in Hong Kong lack empathy and are so self-centred (or is this what they call "pragmatism"?
bchambers
Come on you animal lovers- MTR made a reasonable judgement call. Attempts had been made to coax the annimal off the tracks and failled so unfortunately the operations must restart for the safety and comfort of thousands of passengers. A blockage on the tracks stops all trains on the line not only the one behind.
ant5354
I believe Hong Kongers would be more irritated if trains have been delayed more than 6 mins and up to 60 mins yesterday.
If the MTR had done the critics' suggestion, It was very likely that the trains (up to 30 trains) were suspended for longer time due to the inefficiency of coaxing the dog out of the railway, would you blamed MTR, AFCD or SCPA for their inefficiency, wasting money and manpower?
Weighing the blame for brutality against spending huge effort to earn the name of infamous useless organization, you know which choice is wise.
In addition, will you, from heart, welcome that trains are halted because of a wandering stray dog when you are standing at a 30 degree temperature platform?
Would you applaud the humanity of MTR?

I sympathize the dog. I agree that MTR must take more actions to prevent the accident from happening again in the future. Taking action is more helpful than blaming. If anyone want to change the situation or save dogs from the same tragedy, Please post your suggestion / remedy, let's solve the problem together, as a family.
mh0908
What if it was a group of old ladies who fainted and fell onto the tracks due to the heat, seriously injured. What if they could not be moved unless with the proper rescue equipment. What if the emergency personnel tells you that it will take half an hour to have the equipment brought in from Prince of Wales hospital. What if the Doctors tell you it will take another half hour to secure and remove these old ladies from the tracks. Will you still make the same comment? In a moral society, every life is precious.
clsaclsa
resumption of service after a 6-minute rescue attempt, in which a chair was lowered to the tracks, is not a reasonable judgement call at all.
.
There were more than enough evidence and eye-witnesses to the incompetence of the rail staff in handling this matter.
asiaseen
Where's your sense of proportion Mr Lo? Sadly lacking, I fear.
mh0908
Reading comments here and elsewhere sends chill down my spine. Hong Kong has never been the greatest place for dogs. They are not allowed into parks nor beaches with life guards. Most Hong Kongers have a phobia for them. Looking back in time, at least the British love dogs. Hong Kong has become less compassionate in recent years. we spend too much time on how to elect a chief executive and in doing so, become ruthless in our pursuit. Our morality has gone down the slippery slope.
-
I have not felt this uncomfortable and uneasy in a long time. Seeing the helpless dogs blood on the tracks makes my own boiled. Instead of asking people to understand that saving a life is a good thing worth sacrificing our time for, we instead pray the **** for doing the right thing. What have we become? Has Hong Kong truly become this morally corrupt? What happened to our Good Samaritan spirit? How is this dog than the girl who was repeatedly ran over in China by motorists?
-
"Time can bring you down, time can bend your knees.
Time can break your heart, have you begging please, begging please.
Beyond the door there's peace I'm sure.
And I know there'll be no more tears in heaven."
anthonygmail
It is easy to say that the MTR should have called for outside assistance as if this assistance was available within minutes. Can Alex give us an accurate estimation of the time required for either the SPCA or the AFCD to mobilise a catch team? I would bet that it would be more than 10 minutes.
.
And even if it was 10 minutes, is it possible for the dog to wander down the line, requiring more time to actually catch it?
.
All in all, the delay can be as short as 20 minutes or as long as 60 minutes or more. During that time, more than 30 trains could be delayed (including intercity ones) and the MTR would need to deploy bus shuttle services.
.
Also please give a thought to the people stranded on the trains that couldn't move. What if those trains were packed and it just happens that someone fainted/died...etc etc...
.
All this over a stray dog...that could or could not have been caught within 60 minutes.
clsaclsa
wow so many assumptions and what ifs that I feel like adding one of my own- most HK passengers (Mainland Chinese is another matter) on board would not have agreed to risking a stray dog's life even if they were delayed for over 30 mins.
.
But the fact of the matter was that MTR botched the rescue attempts and had made no attempt to call for help.
johnyuan
It is poor judgment in the absence of a set rule. The quality of the workforce at MTRC seems have continued to slip for it to remain as a world-class operation.
.
Lessons can be learned from public’s anguish but not every lesson can be justified as an excuse for having poor judgment in the line of duty by MTRC. Quality in intelligence in managing the train operation should be sought and maintained at all time.
.
It is not too cruel to demote the person who has not informed one’s superior or who has not ordered to halt the service to be resumed only until the stray dog rescued.

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