The MTR Corporation is reviewing its overhead cable system and has pledged to improve quality control after three faults caused long delays on its East Rail and Tseung Kwan O lines.
Chief executive Jay Walder admitted yesterday that the MTR's sourcing of materials and quality assurance were the railway operator's weakest points.
Walder was speaking to lawmakers after faulty insulators caused long delays on its East Rail Line twice in 10 days last month, and a faulty support wire held up trains for five hours on its Tseung Kwan O Line in December.
"The most important weakness, which became apparent in the review of the East Rail incident, is the sourcing of materials and the related quality assurance," Walder said. "We must do a better job of assuring the quality of critical parts."
But Walder insisted that the railway system's performance was not slipping. He said the 143 delays of more than 10 minutes experienced last year were the least since it merged with the Kowloon-Canton Railway in 2007.
The Legislative Council railways subcommittee also heard that the MTR would improve its monitoring of construction work, after the firm found that the loose wire that caused the five-hour delay on the Tseung Kwan O Line in December was the result of a support bracket not having been fixed according to its design.
Transport minister Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung told the subcommittee that the railway company had hired independent experts to review its overhead cable system and that the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department would also look into the same issue. The experts were expected to complete their report by June.
Lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun, of the New People's Party, said it was unbelievable that the MTR had not discovered the problem on the Tseung Kwan O Line earlier. "You did not even check against the design when you inspected the work after it was completed," he said.
A document submitted by the Transport and Housing Bureau said a bracket holding the loose wire was supporting two overhead cables, when it should have held only one.
The angle of the fastening wire was also smaller than it was designed to be, and the load on that wire, which broke, was three times the design specification.
"There is no documentation showing why a non-typical configuration was used at the time of installation, nor can a record be retrieved of any changes to the design or installation method," the document stated.
Legislators also questioned the way disruption penalties were assessed, after the railway was fined a total of HK$3 million for the East Rail hold-ups on February 9 and 18, which caused delays over periods of four and three hours, respectively.
The penalties were based on the longest single disruption. In the first failure, the HK$1 million fine was based on the longest service disruption of 50 minutes. Calculated over the full four hours, the fine would have been five times that amount.
Similarly, the railway was fined HK$2 million for the second disruption, instead of HK$3 million if the amount had been calculated over the full three hours that the delay lasted.