Hong Kong MTR

Hong Kong MTR urged to use high-tech devices to prevent power faults in future

Railway operator tells lawmakers April 10 shutdown caused by loosening of support for overhead cable

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 April, 2017, 8:03am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 April, 2017, 8:03am

Hong Kong’s railway operator was urged to introduce high-tech devices, instead of relying on naked-eye inspections, to immediately detect equipment glitches to avoid major disruptions akin to the drastic power fault on the Kwun Tong line earlier this month.

Lawmakers at the Legislative Council’s railway matters subcommittee meeting made the calls as the MTR Corporation revealed the preliminary investigation findings of the railway network power failure that caused service to be suspended for about two and a half hours.

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Road traffic plunged into chaos in east Kowloon on the night of April 10 after a power fault halted MTR trains between Kwun Tong and Kowloon Tong for over two hours, forcing thousands of stranded passengers to join long queues for shuttle buses or other public transport.

At Choi Hung station, passengers were forced to leave a stranded train inside a tunnel and walk along the track after the electricity supply was cut.

MTR operations director Adi Lau Tin-shing said on Friday the shutdown was caused by the loosening of two support components for an overhead cable on the track linking the Kowloon Bay depot and Choi Hung station.

Just three months before the incident ... no irregularity was spotted then
Adi Lau Tin-shing, MTR Corp

“This result, in a slight displacement of a wire that caused short-circuiting and tripping, triggered the protection system to cut off the power supply at the affected zones,” he told lawmakers.

However, MTR technicians spent more than an hour locating the source of the glitch with naked-eye inspections. Once found, it only took them 10 minutes to fix the affected cable.

Lau said an in-depth investigation would be conducted to find out what went wrong with the loosened components as they usually last for over 40 years. The two faulty devices were installed 22 years ago.

“Actually, just three months before the incident, our maintenance staff already used elevated platforms to inspect the cable section and no irregularity was spotted then,” he said.

Lau assured that another 800 similar support components installed in the railway network were also checked and confirmed to be in good condition.

However, lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun questioned whether the railway operator could introduce high-tech devices to immediately detect glitches at the power supply system to avoid relying on naked-eye inspections.

Lau said they would consider this option in the final investigation to be concluded in two months. The MTR Corp already set aside HK$3 million for the disruption, which is to be used for fare concessions.