Hong Kong protests: MTR unlikely to run overnight train services during this year's Mid-Autumn Festival over fear of clashes

South China Morning Post

The Hong Kong rail operator is likely to extend service hours instead of offering transport through the night after moon-gazing gatherings

South China Morning Post |

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It would be the first time the MTR Corp has cancelled overnight services during one of the four holidays it offers them.

This year, for the first time ever, the MTR will probably not run over night during the Mid-Autumn Festival. 

SCMP learned that a decision would be made this afternoon during a meeting between top MTR Corporation and government officials including those from the Transport and Housing Bureau, who will also decide on providing alternative transport services for commuters.

It is understood that service hours will be extended on Friday night.

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The move aims to avoid any safety hazards and to discourage crowds from gathering at stations as the festival is associated with candlelit lanterns and mass celebrations.

“We urged the MTR management to cancel the overnight services on this occasion, which we think is a high-risk one,” Tam Kin-chiu, vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Federation of Railway Trade Unions, said on Wednesday morning after meeting the corporation’s unions and its operations director Adi Lau Tin-shing.

“We can no longer afford to have key interchanges vandalised again.”

Prince Edward, Mong Kok and Yau Ma Tei stations have had to be closed temporarily because of intensifying violence, both inside and out, by extremist protesters.

MTR Corp staff at Kwai Fong station, Kwai Fong, which closed on August 23 after anti-government protesters vandalised facilities the night before.
Photo: K.Y. Cheng/SCMP

Overnight MTR services are normally available four times a year – during Mid-Autumn Festival, Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve and the night before Lunar New Year.

In the past month, protesters have caused massive damage to MTR stations, with rampaging groups smashing CCTV cameras, Octopus card readers, ticketing machines, glass doors, turnstiles and station control rooms. They frequently set off fire extinguishers and fire hosepipes in the stations when confronting police.

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“We have carried out urgent repairs of damaged facilities by replacing them with components from undamaged stations, but we will soon run out of them,” Tam said.

Protesters started targeting the MTR after they started calling police to remove demonstrators from its premises, and closing stations in advance of protests, including legal ones, to avoid chaos and vandalism. The operator started taking action after it was accused by mainland Chinese state media of allowing protesters to use stations as staging points to attack police and also providing them with free rides to escape.