• Fri
  • Jul 11, 2014
  • Updated: 12:52pm
NewsHong Kong

MTR branded 'irresponsible' for not reporting sparks in tunnel

Lawmaker says railway system 'irresponsible' for not reporting the incident to authorities

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 February, 2014, 4:04am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 February, 2014, 4:29pm

The MTR Corporation has been urged to explain why it did not report to police or the Fire Services Department when a driver saw sparks coming out of a tunnel wall.

A driver reported that he saw smoke and sparks in the tunnel between Yau Tong and Quarry Bay at 8.40am yesterday. Services for two trains were disrupted for three to four minutes, the company said.

A smell of burning and waves of warm air were felt when the South China Morning Post rode on trains between the two stations yesterday morning. One of the trains also stopped in the middle of the tunnel with no announcement. Maintenance workers were seen on the platform at Quarry Bay station.

Police, the Fire Services Department and the Transport Department said they did not receive any report from the MTR, while the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department said the company had informed it of the incident. It said it was following up with the MTR to establish the cause.

An MTR insider said sparks "gushed out" from one of the emergency exit doors in the tunnel, and an empty train carried workers to the spot to check the cause. Foam was sprayed at the location every two hours, the source said.

"[The MTR] was ignoring the risks to continue train services," the source said, adding that the company should have ceased service to inspect the cause.

The MTR said that smoke and sparks emerged from "a gap on the wall" and it was investigating the cause.

Institute of Engineers president Raymond Chan Kin-sek said sparks may have come from power cables in the tunnel, but it was not very serious as it did not cause a power failure.

But lawmaker and Sai Kung district councillor Gary Fan Kwok-wai said he was concerned that the company did not report the incident to police.

He said the company was irresponsible and urged it to explain its policy on how to handle such incidents.

"It could have been serious. It's unacceptable that the MTR did not inform the public about the incident," he said.

"I suspect the MTR was trying to avoid attention on the first working day after the Lunar New Year break, when many people were still on holiday and not taking the MTR."



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This article is now closed to comments

I think that professional engineers and specialists are paid not just for their technical skills and expertise, but also for their judgement and discretion. Also, if it was a cover-up, they risk their jobs and retirement benefits. There is a fine line between ensuring a complex engineering system like the MTR (with its power distribution, signalling, controls, protection systems, etc) runs smoothly everyday vs escalating every incident to avoid being accused of "covering things up". Of course, local politicians like Mr. Fan may be trying to do "his job" but in they end, they are not specialists in economics, engineering or even law. Let's try to be balanced and see both sides of the story.
This story is typical of Hong Kong nowadays. Whenever something goes wrong the knee-jerk response is to criticise what was done and say it should have been escalated. The MTR investigated the incident and classified it as one which only required the attention of the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department, which were duly notified (hence hardly a cover-up). Sparks can come from anything, including where the train's power supply connectors spark with the overhead wires. Further, just because foam was sprayed doesn't mean it was to put anything out - it could have been a precautionary suppressant.
Over-reacting a bit, eh?

Sounds to me like an incident was identified and reported. MTR staff arrived at the scene to investigate and put the situation under control. So, what’s the issue?

I’m sure that throughout each day, there are numerous incidents that require MTR workers to intervene. If for every single incident, trains were stopped and emergency services were called in, it would cripple the city.
A potential fire is not a trivial matter, especially in an underground system and sparks are a precursor of fire. Foam being sprayed every 2 hours does not suggest that the situation was under control. The fire services should have been informed promptly.
wrong - sparks alone are not necessarily the precursor of a fire.
There must be both a combustible material present, and sufficient temperature
to ignite and sustain the combustion - both of which are hard to find in a concrete tunnel in cool weather.
I think Fire services is a valuable resource that should not be frivolously deployed just because a politician feels the need to insert himself into a news story.


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