First it was track, then water in the tunnel, now the wheels on the trains for Hong Kong’s new high-speed rail link are causing the problems
MTR Corporation chief calls wear and tear ‘natural’ and says problem was solved after adjusting lubricants
The city’s HK$84.4-billion cross-border high-speed rail link has been hit by another hiccup following two glitches in less than two months of its trial run – this time its newly arrived wheels are wearing away more quickly than expected.
Francis Li Shing-kee, MTR Corporation’s chief of operations, admitted on Thursday there had been some natural wear and tear with the wheels of the express trains since the rail link’s trial run started on April 1.
It has been reported that the disintegration of the wheels was faster than expected.
However, Li stopped short of confirming how many wheels were involved, the extent of the wear and tear, and which rail section caused the problems.
“As you understand, the wheels and the rail are made of steel. As the steel wheels run on the steel rail, there must be some kind of wear and tear, which is very natural,” he said.
Li insisted the wearing of the wheels was still within acceptable standards, and the problems had been resolved after adjusting the use of lubricants to reduce the wearing.
“We are trying to monitor the wearing in such a way that we adjust the amount of lubricants to rectify the problem. Now the situation has greatly improved,” he said.
It has been the third glitch in less than two months of the express rail link’s trial run. The derailing of a made-in-China train car hitting the rail link on April 3 was the first incident. An initial investigation showed that the problem was caused by a track malfunction.
Last week a section of the signalling system near Mai Po in the New Territories was affected by underground water leaks, something rail operator MTR Corp admitted was partly beyond their control since underground tunnels could not be 100 per cent waterproof.
Lee Tze-man, MTR Corp’s Head of E&M Construction, pointed out that there were some layers of dust clogged up by the moisture which caused the signalling system to become unstable.
He said the purpose of the link’s trial run was to identify any system deficiencies, and to iron out those problems.
“The high-speed railway is a very complicated system,” he said. “To commission such a huge system, during the trial period we need to address the deficiency issues before we can launch the high-speed rail service in September.”
Li also vowed to keep the public informed of any other issues surrounding the line, which is expected to open in September after a bill for the controversial joint checkpoint facility at its West Kowloon terminus is passed in the Legislative Council this summer.
“In the trial operation, just in case that we find something unusual, or there are any possible implications to the public or safety issues, we will immediately share with the media and update the public,” he said.
Lawmaker and rail expert Michael Tien Puk-sun agreed the wearing of the wheels was natural, especially when the wheels ran on the sharp curves of the track.
“During the sharp bends, there are some gadgets installed at the track to produce some lubricants to reduce the wearing. When the amount of lubricants is appropriately adjusted, this problem can be resolved,” he said.
However, Tien said MTR needed to improve the transparency of any trial incidents as the underground water seepage at the Mai Po section was not revealed to the public in a timely manner.
“For this kind of incident which affected the stability of the signalling system, the MTR should have informed the public immediately, instead of speaking out only after being asked by the media,” he said.