Hong Kong MTR

Hong Kong lawmakers dismayed as MTR Corp fined HK$2m, not HK$20m, for delay

Fine much lower than figure expected for signal glitch early this month that caused a 10-hour disruption

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 August, 2017, 8:15am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 August, 2017, 1:23pm

The MTR Corporation will be fined HK$2 million for a signal glitch early this month that caused a 10-hour service disruption on the Kwun Tong Line.

That is significantly lower than the HK$20 million speculated in media reports under a “service performance” clause of the fare agreement that penalises the railway operator for delays.

The government explained that services still ran on the line during the incident – albeit at reduced intervals – so commuters were able to complete their journeys.

Trains had to slow down from around 11am on August 5 after a signalling fault was detected.

But there were reports that passengers were stranded inside carriages stuck between stations for over an hour. Thousands more had to switch to shuttle bus services, creating severe traffic congestion in parts of Kowloon East.

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Normal services resumed at 9.30pm after emergency repairs were completed – nearly 11 hours after the glitch was detected.

According to the service performance arrangement introduced in 2013 following the review of the fare adjustment mechanism and updated this year, such a delay would trigger a penalty of HK$20 million.

But responding to lawmakers’ inquiries on Thursday, the Transport and Housing Bureau said the actual delay was 83 minutes, meaning it only warranted a HK$2 million fine.

It explained that the time was determined by looking at the longest possible delay experienced by commuters from start to finish, rather than the length of the service disruption.

The MTR Corp also claimed that the signalling system on the Kwun Tong Line was “more complicated” than other lines, citing the presence of track branches and the proximity of the power and transmission systems.

It emphasised that over HK$8 billion of investment went into maintenance each year, while stringent procedures were in place to upgrade its system.

A full report compiled by independent experts was expected to ready in October and submitted to the government, the operator added.

Lawmakers were dissatisfied with the lenient punishment. Ben Chan Han-pan, who chairs the Legislative Council’s transport panel, described the clause as “trickery” and said it failed public expectations.

Lam Cheuk-ting of the Democratic Party said the penalty rules had no deterrent effect and he would write to the bureau to demand a review.