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  • Dec 25, 2014
  • Updated: 9:03am
NewsHong Kong

Thousands hit in five hours of travel chaos after MTR power blackout

Thousands suffer as loose cable halts trains, leaving six stations shut and bus terminals jammed

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 December, 2013, 2:31pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 December, 2013, 12:23pm

A power failure on the Tseung Kwan O line halted MTR services for nearly five hours yesterday, plunging the city's transport network into chaos.

A Yau Ma Tei-bound train broke down in a tunnel at 12.40pm, forcing about 150 passengers to walk on the track to Yau Tong station.

Trains were affected on the whole Tseung Kwan O Line and between Tiu Keng Leng and Lam Tin on the Kwun Tong Line.

The train slowed down after an explosion … then there were two more explosions

Cross-harbour services were also halted for more than an hour in what was the worst disruption on the line in a decade.

Six MTR stations were forced to close, leaving thousands of passengers in limbo and causing a rush to bus stations, which were quickly jammed.

Commuters were angered by the failure of the MTR Corp's contingency plans. Services did not resume until 5.35pm.

An inspection found that a 30-metre section of an overhead power line had come loose and dangled as low as one metre from the tunnel ceiling between Yau Tong and Tiu Keng Leng stations. Lo Chi-ho, divisional commander of Kowloon East's Fire Services Department, said: "We suspect a train was travelling in this section of the tunnel and was in contact with the overhead power cable, causing a power failure."

He said inspectors found damage to a section of the cable and the top of the train.

The Transport and Housing Bureau demanded that the MTR Corp submits a report on the incident within three working days.

Watch: Passengers walk through the tunnel on the MTR's Tseung Kwan O Line

Transport secretary Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said: "We will take this into account in the fare adjustment mechanism under which a penalty system also applies."

Under the system, the MTR Corp will be fined up to HK$7.5 million for service disruptions lasting about five hours.

Adi Lau Tin-shing, deputy director (operating) of the MTR Corp, apologised for the disruption, but refused to say whether the design of the mainland-made train had anything to do with it.

"It is too early to draw any conclusion before a detailed investigation is carried out," he said. Lau said the section of cable concerned had its annual check in October. He also denied there were any explosions, as some passengers claimed, saying this was just the loud noise caused when the train protection system was triggered on trains heading for Yau Tong station.

One passenger, Sky Chan, said: "The train slowed down after an explosion. It stopped, and then there were two more explosions."

Another commuter also said he heard an explosion minutes after the train left Tiu Keng Leng station. Po Lam, Hang Hau, Tseung Kwan O, Lohas Park, Tiu Keng Leng and Yau Tong stations were closed with signs saying: "This station will be closed because of a serious incident. Please leave immediately."

At 2pm, cross-harbour services resumed by using a disused tunnel between Lam Tin and Quarry Bay.

New People's Party lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun, a former chairman of the Kowloon-Canton Railway, said the MTR Corp's failure to repair the system before the evening peak hour deserved an explanation at the next meeting of Legco's railway subcommittee on January 3.

Another device on another train on the Kwun Tong line heading to Yau Tong was also grounded after running into a similar problem. 

Lau Ting Sing, MTR's deputy director of operation, said the activation caused loud noises that passengers described as "explosions."

Lau said the company would investigate the cause of incident after train service ends tonight, but added that the cables were usually inspected once a year and the last inspection was October.

One of the passengers, Sky Chan, said: “The train slowed down after an ‘explosion’. It stopped then, followed by another two sounds of explosion.”

The train arriving from the Tseung Kwan O station stopped in the tunnel about 20 metres away from the platform at Yau Tong station.

Passengers onboard had to alight from the train and walk to the platform.

One fireman said more than 100 were evacuated from the train.

“This station will be closed because of a serious incident. Please leave immediately” was displayed on the sign in the Yau Tong station.


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This article is now closed to comments

Agree with some of the comments that we need to put things in perspective. The MTR is literally one of the best subway systems in the world.
We in Hong Kong are so used to high levels of reliability for our transportation systems, infrastructure, water, electricity, etc (and pay so relatively little for it compared to overseas) that we instantly call for fines, haul them in front of a committee, etc when something goes wrong.
911 was a disaster. Sichuan earthquakes were a disaster. Typhoon in Phillipines were a disaster. Waiting the rain with hundreds of other passengers and being late is definitely annoying...but not a disaster.
People need to relax. This isn’t a disaster event. It didn’t require evacuation in the same sense that a terrorist attack requires evacuation.

A train broke down. That’s all. Accidents happen. The result of thousands of people being stranded and not being able to get where they need to is not a surprise. There’s no way that buses would be able to just absorb the people who normally take the MTR. We need to appreciate that no one was hurt and no one was in danger of being hurt.

If the MTR is to be criticized, it should be for the fact that the design of the entire rail system is not very forward-thinking. Each route only has 2 sets of rails going in opposite directions. If a train were to break down, it’s basically over. The entire route going in the direction of the stalled train just stops. Compare this with the NYC Subway where there’s often multiple rails. This allows it to run express trains and carry out rail maintenance without disrupting service. This also means that if a train breaks down, it’s unlikely to cripple the entire line.
I totally agree with the above and below comment. I live in London and the Underground tubes are a bag of shite. Delays and breakdowns happen almost on a daily basis, its mental. The MTR is heaven compared our tube system. Be grateful guys it's only one hiccup!
OldPeak Toad
and for people with highly delicate bums and brains (like you), the MTR should have requisitioned the Rollers from the Peninsula, and for immediate compensation handed out dinner vouchers for a table of ten at Gaddi's
@"I think the MTR Corporation has been a disaster in handling the any problems of this magnitude. "
Absolute Rubbish!
Trying living in any other country and see how frequently there are public transport breakdowns and delays................ with little or no information given to passengers.
Get Real! You must live in a cocoon!
To John Doe
How is your comment related to the problem, which was loosened wiring fittings that are
bolted to the ceiling of the tunnel ?
JAY-SUS! Move on and stop being a miserable ****, it's nearly Christmas so cheer up!
To newyorkgirl:
You haven’t been or lived in New York as your alias implied. The subway system there is the second oldest in the world (London is the oldest). The current system is actually make up once three separate systems. By appearance of their stations, some retain their past design and others been upgraded beginning in the 80s. When come to services, they are as good as Hong Kong’s MTR. Or actually even better as the trains can run not just on two tracks but three. The third track is for express trains with adaptive direction depending of the traffic flow at peak hours which is marvelous way to saving time for passengers. Lament that later subways in Hong Kong and elseway didn't pick up this feature. I am glad that the new line that is still under construction in NYC wisely incorporated with a third track.
BTW, I like you to report here what were the frequent breakdown incidences that took place even for the last decade in New York City’s subway system. Watch out of your public pronouncement from hearsays that fabrications can be easily detected. They can bring you shame had you used your name for the posting like I always do. Your credibility is shot.
Every friend that has visited me from NYC raved about the efficiency, cleanliness and convenience of the MTR. Disruptions and delays on NYC subways are a common and daily occurrence in our lives. This is a small inconvenience compared to what we put up with on a daily basis.
Would MTR cut their cost in marketing / tv ads and reallocate more resources to employ more qualified staff to maintain their core assets and improve their service qualities.
I don't see any point for a monopoly in public transportation to advertise how "good" their services are while cannot prevent incidents like this happening again and again



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