MTRC hit squad to target delays

High-level team is formed amid calls to punish mishaps more

The MTR Corporation has set up a top-level taskforce to investigate delays and improve its track record, amid calls by legislators for harsher penalties for repeated holdups and problems.

The eight-member taskforce, with deputy operations director Andrew McCusker as chairman, was announced by MTRC chief executive Chow Chung-kong at a special meeting of the Legislative Council transport panel yesterday.

Mr Chow said it would include senior department managers from infrastructure maintenance, station and train operations.

'We understand that these incidents raise public concerns and the corporation itself is concerned about whether the MTRC system has aged and whether repair work is sufficient,' said Mr Chow. The group will seek technical improvements to minimise delays.

The MTRC, under increasing government pressure to do better, has appointed British-based experts Lloyd's Register Rail to review the company and its services.

Yesterday's announcement came as the MTRC reported 33 delays of eight minutes or more in the past three months.

Phil Gaffney, the MTRC's managing director for operations and business development, said the taskforce would also examine whether problems were linked.

The MTR's performance pledge is for trains to have made 3,000 trips or done 500,000km before experiencing a five-minute delay.

Mr Chow stressed that the MTR achieved 99.9 per cent punctuality in the first nine months of this year, exceeding the 99.5 per cent performance pledge.

With the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation also reporting a total of 20 delays of eight minutes or more on its East Rail, West Rail and Light Rail lines in the past 31/2 months, lawmakers criticised the Environment, Transport and Works Bureau for not being strict enough with the two rail operators.

Democratic Party Legislative Councillor Andrew Cheng Kar-foo asked Secretary for Environment, Transport and Works Sarah Liao Sau-tung why she did not feel that a cumulative 1,116-minute delay in three months on MTR trains was enough to warrant a penalty.

Dr Liao replied that she had asked for a report and an investigation was under way. But she said that under the MTR Ordinance, the chief executive could 'impose a financial penalty on the corporation' in some circumstances.

Liberal Party councillor Miriam Lau Kin-yee, who was re-elected chairwoman of Legco's railways subcommittee, said any delay was unacceptable.

Mr Chow said the MTR spent $2 billion a year on system repairs, renewal and upgrading.