Hong Kong MTR

Commuters left stranded as power failure stops MTR services on Kwun Tong Line

Passengers forced to walk along tracks and scramble for buses in east Kowloon as Kwun Tong Line service down for more than two hours

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 April, 2017, 7:17pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 April, 2017, 2:37am

Road traffic in east Kowloon was plunged into chaos on Monday night after a power fault halted MTR trains for 2-1/2 hours, forcing stranded passengers to walk along rail tracks in the dark and line up with hundreds of others for shuttle buses or other public transport.

The standstill began at about 6pm when a power failure suspended services in both directions at eight stations along the Kwun Tong Line between Kowloon Tong and Kwun Tong. The problem was not rectified until 8.25pm.

MTR operations director Adi Lau Tin-shing said the shutdown was caused by a device on an overhead cable on the track linking the Kowloon Bay depot and Choi Hung station. The corporation apologised for the chaos.

A spokesman for the Transport and Housing Bureau said the MTR should submit a report on the incident to the Transport Department and Electrical and Mechanical Services Department, which would report to the bureau if needed.

During the disruption, the frequency of trains running between Kowloon Tong and Whampoa was lengthened to 10 minutes, while services between Tiu Keng Leng and Kwun Tong were running at 12-minute intervals.

MTR staff at the eight affected stations shut the entrances and turnstiles, leaving impatient commuters waiting outside.

Long queues for shuttle buses and other public transport tailed back outside the stations while road traffic was thrown into chaos as commuters sought out alternative ways to reach their destinations. Northbound traffic along Princess Margaret Road near Mong Kok was severely congested while westbound traffic along Kwun Tong Road was seriously jammed up to 8.45pm.

Three passengers were sent from Kowloon Bay station to United Christian Hospital while five were sent there from Choi Hung station after being overwhelmed in stuffy trains after the air conditioning shut down.

At Choi Hung station, passengers were forced to leave a stranded train inside a tunnel and walk along the track after the electricity supply was cut.

A woman on the train said: “We’ve been in stale air [in the train] for 45 minutes ... We were instructed to walk towards the train head and then come out. Staff told us to open the train windows. Someone fainted.”

Lau said passengers on a train which had stopped inside a tunnel 50 metres from Choi Hung station were evacuated at around 6.50pm, 50 minutes after the malfunction.

“The decision was made after staff at the control centre gauged the [extra] time needed for the system to get back up,” he said.

He would not acknowledge media reports that air conditioning or ventilation systems were cut on the jam-packed train, only saying backup power had ensured “certain” equipment, such as the lighting system, remained in operation.

Lau insisted there were “very strict” guidelines on the maintenance of overhead cables, and the operator would consider inviting an independent consultant to look into the malfunction.

In Kowloon Bay, passengers were seen gushing out of the station to bus stops on Kwun Tong Road. At Kwun Tong station, a woman said her journey from Kowloon Bay had taken 30 minutes as opposed to the usual 10.

Giant signs were put up around Kwun Tong station concourse directing commuters to shuttle bus services, as staff in bright pink vests answered questions. Messages were relayed over the public announcement system informing people of the situation.

Wendy Chui, a Form Five student making her way home, said she had waited more than 40 minutes to reach the front of the queue for shuttle buses, which spanned a kilometre at one stage.

“Of course it’s very frustrating,” she said, although she felt MTR staff had acted professionally in dealing with the situation.

Dozens of other passengers gathered at the customer service centre, many asking for a certificate to prove to employers that their journeys had been involuntarily delayed.

A woman surnamed Chan who was heading to work in Wong Tai Sin said: “Now I’m definitely late. Can’t the MTR do a better job and provide more stable ­services?”

Hours before the evening chaos, a train with failing equipment on the Tung Chung Line disrupted services to Lantau for over an hour from about 9.30am.

That disruption caused trains to operate at 12-minute intervals between Hong Kong and Sunny Bay station – the interchange for the Disneyland Resort Line.

At about 10.35am, the MTR said the faulty train had been removed from the line.

Major disruptions to MTR services in recent years

July 30, 2012

A power failure hit the signalling system, forcing trains to slow during the morning rush hour, disrupting services for about three hours on three MTR lines – the Tsuen Wan, Kwun Tong and Island lines.

December 16, 2013

A section of overhead cable near Yau Tong MTR station snapped, leading to a service suspension along the entire Tseung Kwan O Line and on part of the Kwun Tong Line. The network returned to full service in time for the late afternoon rush hour.

July 22, 2014

Services on the MTR West Rail Line were disrupted for more than six hours after lightning damaged the railway’s signalling system. Full service was restored late at night.

September 2, 2014

A crack in a section of rail between Diamond Hill and Wong Tai Sin stations on the Kwun Tong Line caused train service disruptions for about two hours during the morning rush hour.

October 15, 2015

Tung Chung Line services were severely delayed for about an hour during the evening rush hour after a train broke down between Hong Kong and Kowloon stations.

October 14, 2016

A total breakdown of Airport Express Line services for nearly five hours occurred as a result of a damaged overhead cable near Sunny Bay station during the morning rush hour. Tung Chung Line services were also severely delayed.

December 5, 2016

A signalling system hiccup near Ho Man Tin station caused service delays on the Kwun Tong Line for two hours during morning rush hour.

February 14, 2017

South Horizons station was closed for four hours because of flooding caused by a burst water pipe.

Additional reporting by Ng Kang-chung and Harminder Singh