THE Mass Transit Railway Corporation (MTRC) is to install a safety device on all its trains to reduce the chances of carriages separating to one in 100 billion. The secondary coupling device will be fitted to all MTR trains by next April - the first anniversary of the worst incident in the company's 14 years of operation. On April 27, this year, three carriages became detached in a tunnel, leaving thousands of rush hour commuters stranded in north-west Kowloon. MTRC operating engineer design manager John Gretton said the new safety precaution would cost the company between $3 million and $5 million. But he said it would save the company money in the long term. Before that incident the chance of train carriages parting was one in a billion, he said. Since then every train was checked each night, which was both time and labour consuming, he said. ''We treat safety as a very high priority. ''The chances of what happened on April 27 were so slim that we couldn't even reproduce the incident. We found other things that were more likely to happen,'' he said. ''The new device is extremely simple and highly robust,'' he said. Mr Gretton said an indicator device would be installed in the train operator's cabin which would show whether a carriage was coupled or uncoupled. The device is a hook made of heavy steel which keeps the two compartments together. If the carriages do part, it will set off the engine's braking system. Mr Gretton said the Hong Kong-made device was the first of its kind he knew of in the world.