Derailment fears spark MTR probe into train 'design faults'
Company has three days to explain whether its train designs are unsafe as newspaper claims
The transport chief has ordered the MTR to submit a report in three days on an alleged train design fault that could delay the opening of the South Island Line.
Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung Bing-leung expressed concern about yesterday's Apple Daily report alleging that the width of some parts of the mainland-made trains exceeded the safety limit.
The report added that a redesign of the trains would delay the opening of the line for a year. It is expected to open in 2015.
The newspaper claimed its information came from an internal MTR document, and that the 10 driverless trains were ordered from Chinese manufacturer Changchun Railway Vehicles.
"We are concerned about any safety issues, so we have asked the MTR Corporation to provide a report within three days to explain [if] those allegations are valid," Cheung said yesterday.
He said the safety requirements for the South Island Line - which will link Admiralty and South Horizons - were the same as all other lines in the railway network, and that all new trains had to pass stringent tests set by the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department.
The Apple Daily report said the bearing box in the wheels of the trains exceeded the permitted kinematic envelope - the outline of space occupied by a rail vehicle in motion - by 4.68cm, and the gear case box by 2.58cm. It said the boxes might hit items around a train in motion and could cause derailment.
Engineer Albert Lai Kwong-tak, of the Professional Commons lobby group, said he had seen the internal MTR documents, which showed the company did not know about the issues until a few months ago. The documents also specified that the design fault was the MTR's responsibility rather than the manufacturer's.
Lai said the documents showed the MTR had yet to decide how to deal with the fault. "It's either about changing the train's design or making amendments on civil engineering works. It's expensive to make new trains and it's also difficult to amend tunnels," he said.
The MTR last night said it had stringent requirements for train design, which allowed sufficient clearance between the moving trains and station platforms, tunnels and other fixtures. It has ordered 22 trains from the mainland manufacturer since 2008.
Video: Driverless MTR car found abandoned in Tung Chung