KCRC officials admitted the design of West Rail's signalling system had some 'deviation', but they said it would be unfair to ask the contractor to shoulder the costs of a $20 million improvement project. The admission in the Legislative Council's transport panel meeting came after the corporation singled out stormy weather as the cause of 13 signal failures this year that led to a disruption of services and delayed commuters for up to 41/2 hours in July. Lawmakers attacked the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation in yesterday's panel meeting, criticising it for lacking the courage to carry out its responsibilities. 'It is not the first year Hong Kong has had stormy weather - are you telling me that this is unpredictable? Why don't you pursue the contractor for the [$20 million in] costs?' said Lau Kong-wah, vice-chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong. Andrew Cheng Kar-foo, of the Democratic Party, also expressed his concerns. 'If stormy weather is your excuse, I'd be so worried that our West Rail system is so fragile that it can't even stand a single strike,' said Mr Cheng. Signal and communications systems manager Henry Cheung said contractor Alcatel Canada agreed to lengthen the free maintenance period to the end of this year. Mr Cheung insisted the request for an extension had nothing to do with the quality of the design. 'We foresaw the possibility of stormy weather, but our design adhered to international standards, and unfortunately the amount of lightning this year was higher than in other years. This is a fact, there's a little deviation in our predictions' of the effect of the weather on the signalling system. KCRC senior transport director Li Yun-tai said the corporation could not seek compensation from the contractor. Alcatel 'did everything requested in the contract ... We could have added some extra requirements, but that would have implied extra costs as well', he said. Mr Li said the $20 million investment, which would be used to add more earthing connections to help transmit high-voltage electricity from lightning strikes to the ground, was part of the maintenance budget, so the corporation would not pass on the burden to passengers. Referring to a July accident, he said the corporation would install prominent signs and alarms to remind train drivers to slow down before entering the depot.