Hong Kong MTR to launch independent probe into 10-hour service disruption
Railway operator denies system is ageing and claims talk of a fine is premature
The MTR Corporation is launching an independent probe into the signalling problem on its Kwun Tong line that led to a more than 10-hour service disruption on Saturday.
MTR CEO Lincoln Leung Kwok-kuen said on Sunday he “sincerely apologised” to passengers affected by the inconvenience.
Leung said the company would set up a high-level panel to look into the issue and that outside consultants would be invited to sit on the panel.
He did not, however, specify a time frame.
MTR operations director Adi Lau Tin-shing claimed on Sunday that his staff had worked round the clock to try to ascertain the cause of Saturday’s incident.
“Initial results of the investigation showed there was an intermittent signalling data transmission issue, and some seven switches were affected,” he said.
Lau added the signalling system at the Kwun Tong station was highly complex and this was why it took a long time to resume service.
He denied the signalling system at the station, which had been in use for more than 20 years, was ageing. He said the company last year spent HK$8 billion on system maintenance and upgrades.
Lau also claimed it was premature to talk about the amount MTR Corp should pay as a fine for the service disruption.
Earlier on Sunday, MTR engineer Wong Yuen-wood, also chairman of the Hong Kong Railway Professionals Union, claimed he learned the three computer systems that controlled the “interlocking” had broken down around the same time.
In railway signalling, interlocking is the ordering of signal apparatus to prevent conflicting movements and avoid danger. This is achieved by arranging tracks in certain ways, such as through junctions or crossings.
Interlocking is designed so that it is impossible to display a signal to proceed unless the route to be used is proven safe.
Because of the fault, the MTR had to switch to manual control of the system, thus causing delays. Service did not return to normal until after 9.30pm Saturday.
The MTRC did not comment on Wong’s claims.
The incident on Saturday was the latest in a recent string of problems affecting the railway system.
In April, a service delay of more than two hours hit the Kwun Tong line because of a power fault.
Deputy chairman of the Legislative Council railways matters subcommittee, Edward Lau Kwok-fan, of the Democratic Alliance for Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, urged the MTR Corp to step up its inspection and maintenance.
The Kwun Tong line is one of 10 main commuter lines operated by the MTR. It commenced operation in 1979.