New MTR routes needed as saturation nears - expert

New MTR lines may have to be laid parallel to the busiest sections of the network to avoid serious delays over the next decade, a British consultant said yesterday.

Alan Cooksey said breakdowns were inevitable as modern equipment was added to the ageing system in an attempt to keep pace with rising demand.

Mr Cooksey, the deputy chief inspecting officer of Britain's Railway Inspectorate, was brought to Hong Kong to investigate a series of MTR problems.

He said alternative MTR routes should be considered and other forms of transport made more readily available.

Mr Cooksey citing the Nathan Road corridor as an example of the growing stress on the system. 'Demand on this section will be eased with the opening of the Western Corridor . . . but other parts of the system are going to face similar problems in the next 10 years,' he said.

'Unless measures are made to reduce demand on the MTR, a number of parts of it will become so excessively used that at best the quality of service will decrease to an unacceptable level.' Transport sources suggested one new route would join Kwun Tong and Tsim Sha Tsui East, via Hunghom and the proposed Kai Tak reclamation. Another route from Chai Wan direct to Tin Hau would by-pass Quarry Bay.

An MTR spokesman said the company was considering extensions.

There was panic and confusion at Lai King station on July 25 when a rail cracked, stranding thousands of commuters.

On May 6, 37 passengers were taken to hospital with breathing problems after a train was stranded in a tunnel for nearly an hour.

Legislator Albert Chan Wai-yip said he was angry the company had denied there was a common cause behind nine incidents last month, which Mr Cooksey found were related to failures of the new signalling system.

'Mr Cooksey has come in and identified the problems in one week, [problems] which the company seems to have turned a blind eye to,' Mr Chan said.