29 January 2020
MTR Corp. is still trying to determine what caused the derailment of an MTR train on the East Rail Line on Tuesday. Photo: HKEJ
MTR Corp. is still trying to determine what caused the derailment of an MTR train on the East Rail Line on Tuesday. Photo: HKEJ

MTR asked to conduct full-scale checks after train derailment

A lawmaker urged MTR Corp. to conduct comprehensive checks on all railway tracks and related components after a train derailed on Tuesday, terrifying passengers and injuring several people.

Ben Chan Han-pan from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, who chairs the Legislative Council’s transport panel, said the incident was a very serious one, and the government should get involved in the follow-up investigations.

Civic Party lawmaker Jeremy Tam Man-ho, the panel’s deputy chairman, asked MTR to launch a full-scale inspection of its tracks as well as train carriages and their wheels to see if there is metal fatigue, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Tam also wants the railway operator to check connection points on the tracks at the Hung Hom Station to determine whether train components, tracks or the signaling system caused the derailment before giving detailed explanations about the incident to the public.

During the morning rush hour on Tuesday, a commuter train running on the East Rail Line derailed while entering Hung Hom station. At least eight people aboard were injured.

Train service between Hung Hom Station and Mong Kok East Station was suspended immediately afterwards and did not reopen until Wednesday morning after repairs and inspections were conducted.

According to information posted by MTR on its website at 6:05 a.m. on Wednesday, only one platform can be in service at Hung Hom Station for the East Rail Line for the day.

Trains would run at seven-minute intervals between Hung Hom Station and Mong Kok East Station, while trains between Mong Kok East Station and Lo Wu Station run at three-and-a-half-minute intervals, and trains between Tai Po Market Station and Lok Ma Chau Station run at 12-minute intervals, the MTR said.

Chan of DAB said the maximum fine the MTR may have to pay for the service disruption could reach HK$25 million, based on the current service performance arrangement under its fare adjustment mechanism.

Roundtable lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun, who once served as chairman of the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corp., conjectured that the most likely reason for the derailment was a problem with the railway switch.

The first three carriages made a right turn and did not derail, Tien said, but the railway switch might have gotten loose, and as a result, the subsequent three carriages could have possibly failed to make a right turn and derailed.

Tien believed there was not a large chance that someone had thrown an object onto the tracks in question, otherwise, the first carriage should have derailed.

Lawmaker Michael Luk Chung-hung, who represents the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions and is deputy chairman of the Legco’s Subcommittee on Matters Relating to Railways, said what worries him is that there are serious problems in routine maintenance.

Luk cited a railway union as saying that there is currently a severe shortage in manpower for maintenance work, while there is a succession problem and part of the maintenance budget has been cut.

Tony Lee Kar-yun, MTR chief of operations engineering, told an RTHK radio program that workers had discovered a fourth crack at the accident site during overnight inspections, adding that it measured around 1 to 2 millimeters wide.

But he said it is most likely that the cracks had developed after the incident.

Lee stressed that the MTR is not ruling out any possible reason for the derailment at this point. He also said experts would be invited to find out what caused the cracks, RTHK reported.

Repair workers also did not find any foreign objects on the tracks that could have caused the derailment, the public broadcaster quoted him as saying.

This was confirmed by a top official of the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department who attended the same radio program.

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