Hong Kong’s commuter rail operator, MTR Corp., is facing calls for a fresh look at passenger safety following an accident involving an elderly woman this week.
On Monday, an 80-year-old lady fell through a platform gap and landed on the tracks after exiting a train at a station along the MTR East Rail Line.
The accident took place at about 9 am when the senior citizen arrived at Lo Wu Station, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
As she walked out of the carriage, her foot failed to make it to the platform and instead went into the gap between the platform and the train, causing her to fall onto the railway track.
Fortunately, an alert passenger at the scene quickly used his body to stop the door from closing, preventing the train from moving again and running over the woman.
MTR staff at the station arrived at the scene quickly and managed to carry her back to the platform before she was sent to hospital for checks.
The woman managed to escape with just a minor hand injury, but the incident has led to renewed calls on MTR to relook its safety measures to prevent such accidents from happening again.
Lawmaker Ann Chiang Lai-wan from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong urged the rail operator to install platform screen doors as soon as possible along the East Rail Line.
Also, steps should be taken to ensure that the gap between the train door and the platform is not too wide.
Wide gaps pose a safety risk to passengers, especially the elderly, the lawmaker said, also telling MTR to deploy more manpower to help senior citizens get on and off trains.
Wide platform gaps are a problem at many stations along East Rail Line.
On-site surveys by some media personnel found that the platform gap at Lo Wu station is as wide as 10 inches.
Elsewhere, such gaps at University Station and Mong Kok East Station measure up to 10 inches and 8 inches, respectively.
According to MTR data, between 2013 and 2014 there were a total of 283 accidents involving platform gaps, or about 12 per month on average, Apple Daily reports.
Following the latest incident, Allen Ding Ka-chun, operations manager for the East Rail Line, promised that MTR will review the existing gaps.
However, he pointed out that the gaps can’t be avoided entirely as there are several different types of trains running on the route.
He claimed that the carriages of the trains that will be used for the Shatin to Central Link, scheduled to be in service in a few years, will be wider and that the platform gaps will shrink as a result.
Lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki, who is deputy chairman of the Legislative Council’s Panel on Transport, criticized MTR for having ignored suggestions from the panel on safety improvement.
He said that he will demand explanations from the company when the Subcommittee on Matters Relating to Railways meets again.
Apple Daily noted that MTR tried to introduce automatic platform gap fillers at Lo Wu station eight years ago, but the plan was abandoned on the ground that the apparatus takes too long to operate and that it will lead to delayed train schedules.
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