Three of the most crowded MTR stations may get extra exits or escalators to ensure swift evacuation in the event of a disaster. The number of passengers using the stations is growing faster than estimated and there is a risk they might not be evacuated to deadlines set by the Railway Inspectorate of the Transport Branch. 'Basically the stations comply but there are concerns that if traffic continues to grow then we could have some problems,' said Roger Kynaston, deputy director (passenger services). Emergency evacuation of stations has received increased scrutiny since the nerve gas attack on the Tokyo underground in March 1995, in which 12 died and thousands fell ill. The Security Branch is preparing a 'disaster plan' to co-ordinate the response of government departments if a similar attack was mounted in Hong Kong. Mr Kynaston said studies would soon start on Tsim Sha Tsui and Mongkok because new, taller office blocks were expected to make the stations more crowded. He said a third station, which he would not name, was also under study. Inspectorate senior inspecting officer Woo Kin-ming suggested Kwun Tong was a cause for concern. 'The Kwun Tong industrial area is rapidly being converted into a business area with more offices and so resulting in a big increase in passengers,' he said. Stations must be evacuated within 71/2 or 41/2 minutes, depending on when they were built. But Mr Kynaston said that even if stations failed the standard that did not necessarily mean they were unsafe as 'the whole issue of evacuation times is part of a complex scenario'. The evacuation standard is based on the time to clear one level of a station if an emergency occurs when a full train draws up to a full platform. Extensions are under way at Wan Chai, Quarry Bay and Central. Transport panel legislator Albert Chan Wai-yip feared the problem might be worse than the company was admitting. He was concerned because the company had assured the Legislative Council capacity and evacuation of stations had been fully 'looked at'. 'If they are doing this now it seems the problem is deteriorating and something urgent needs to be done . . . this is of grave public concern,' Mr Chan said.