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Hong Kong MTR

Maintaining top quality service is crucial for the MTR

Monday’s incident that shut down services on one line for over two hours at peak time must be fully investigated and better contingency plans put in place

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 April, 2017, 2:23am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 April, 2017, 2:25am

Criticisms are to be expected whenever the Mass Transit Railway breaks down. What set Monday’s chaos apart was the scale and duration of the service disruption. We trust the railway operator is fully aware of people’s frustration and anger, and will do its utmost to avoid similar incidents in future.

The mayhem that happened along the Kwun Tong Line during evening rush hour was one of the worst in recent years. Stranded passengers were forced to walk on the tracks in the dark after a power fault halted train services among eight stations for more than two hours. Some people were trapped inside a train without air conditioning for almost an hour, with at least one passenger reportedly fainting. Others were given oxygen masks on reaching station platforms. The situation above ground was just as chaotic. Station concourses filled with disgruntled commuters while thousands scrambled for backup shuttle buses.

More disturbingly, the time taken to get services back on track seemed unusually long. A lawmaker said it took more than an hour for MTR staff to locate the problem, which was then fixed in just 10 minutes. A rail executive conceded that technicians had to spend a considerable time locating the problem by a visual search. A full review is underway.

Technical issues do happen from time to time. Even the most sophisticated system cannot be free from glitches. The rail service suffered a serious disruption in December 2013, when a power failure on the Tseung Kwan O Line brought trains to a standstill for almost five hours. Although the duration was shorter this time, the inconvenience caused was no less. The incident must be investigated thoroughly so that better safeguards and contingency plans can be put in place to prevent a repeat.

As the backbone of the city’s public transport system, the MTRis expected to provide safe, reliable and convenient services to millions of commuters every day. While its overall performance still compares favourably to many overseas counterparts, there have been more service breakdowns recently. It is important that the MTR keep up its service quality and avoid disruptions.