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Hong Kong MTR

Hong Kong MTR staff spent more than an hour to locate fault that caused Kwun Tong Line delay, Michael Tien says

Operator may face a fine of up to HK$3 million, transport panel chairman says

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 April, 2017, 12:05pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 April, 2017, 8:27pm

The service delay of more than two hours on Hong Kong’s rail network due to a power fault on Monday night was mostly down to the MTR needing more than an hour to locate the source of the glitch, the chairman of the Legislative Council’s transport panel has said.

Speaking on an RTHK programme on Tuesday, lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun said technicians spent only 10 minutes to fix the affected cable once it was found, according to his conversations with MTR management.

Tien, who quit the New People’s Party amid a widening rift with chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee on Monday, said the MTR Corporation could face a fine of up to HK$3 million for the disruption in east Kowloon, and urged the operator to modify its delay recovery procedures.

Road traffic in the area was plunged into chaos as stranded passengers were forced to walk along rail tracks in the dark and line up with hundreds of others for shuttle buses or other public transport.

Eight passengers were overcome in stuffy trains when the air conditioning system shut down. They were sent to hospital.

“Power failures are inevitable for railway systems … But the real issue here is that the MTR could not find out where the problem was for more than an hour,” Tien said.

During the two-hour standstill, Tien said MTR technicians spent most of the time locating the source of a fault that could have been fixed in 10 minutes.

But Chang Che-son, past chairman of the control, automation and instrumentation division of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers, said the public should not jump too quickly to a conclusion.

An engineer specialising in railway systems, Chang said the MTR’s power cables were divided into sections.

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“Even when they have identified which section is at fault, [technicians] still need time to locate the problematic device and reset it,” he said.

According to MTR operations chief Francis Li Shing-kee, a safety device attached to the overhead cable was triggered, causing the power outage.

Chang said the device was in place to prevent explosions or fires in case of malfunctions, rather than as a fail-proof instrument for the power system.

“The Kwun Tong line is definitely ageing ... but I understand that the MTR performs regular maintenance works too,” Chang said when asked if ageing could be a factor.

He said the MTR could learn from the lesson by reviewing if their maintenance procedures were adequate, and assess the need to install extra monitoring systems.

A power failure at 6pm on Monday forced the suspension of services at eight stations between Kowloon Tong and Kwun Tong. The problem was not rectified until 8.25pm.

Tien vowed to follow up on the incident in Legco and urged MTR management to explain the matter in front of lawmakers.

The first train on the Kwun Tong Line on Tuesday morning was delayed for five to six minutes due to repair works.

The Electrical and Mechanical Services Department has told the MTR to submit an investigation report within two months.