Central-Admiralty section remains shut for 2nd day on MTR line

March 19, 2019 13:13
MTR workers (inset) move equipment to Central Station as part of preparations to remove damaged rail carriages from the track following the accident Sunday night. Photos: MTR, China News Service

Rail services between Central and Admiralty stations on MTR's Tsuen Wan Line remain suspended for the second day following an accident involving two test trains, with authorities still unable to give a concrete timeframe as to when they expect the operations to resume.

Railway officials say the process of removing the damaged carriages from the track could take some time, following the crash early Sunday.

Explaining the situation, MTR’s operations director Adi Lau Tin-shing told the media that the accident, which saw two trains collide with each other during a test run related to signaling equipment, had taken place in a narrow tunnel, making the clearing-up process very challenging.

Workers have to be very careful every step of the way to ensure a safe recovery operation, which would involve towing of the two collided trains to the back of the Central Station, the executive said.

In addition, Lau pointed out since towing work can only be conducted during the three non-traffic hours at night, there is no certainty as to whether the disrupted services can be restored quickly.

The accident took place at around 3 am, when the two trains that were testing a new signaling system for the Tsuen Wan Line collided on a track that serves the line, causing one of them to derail.

Following the disaster, the Central-Admiralty section on the Tsuen Wan line was out of operation for the whole of Monday. And the situation remained the same on Tuesday morning, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The provider of the new signaling system has been seen as the one that has a high degree of responsibility for what happened Sunday night.

The system was supplied by Alstom-Thales DUAT JV, a joint venture of the well-known French companies Alstom and Thales.

Glitches in their systems had been blamed for several train accidents before, including one in November 2017 in Singapore. In that incident, which left 38 people injured, a train heading to the Tuas Link station stalled at the Joo Koon station on the East West Line of Singapore’s Mass Rapid Transit system before it was hit by another train coming from behind.

A software issue of the signaling system, developed by Thales, was seen responsible for the crash.

In another incident, two running subway trains in Shanghai were found in July 2011 to have been too close to each other in one case and one train running in the opposite direction in another case. Casco Signal, the supplier of the signaling company of Alstom, admitting later that both cases resulted from wrong signals sent by its system during a signal upgrade.

C. S. Chang, former chairman of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers' Control, Automation and Instrumentation division, told a radio program on Monday that the MTR train collision accident looked unusual to him as the testing of the new signaling system using two trains would normally mean that basic testing had been completed.

MTR should launch a deep investigation as soon as possible to prevent important data from going missing, he said.

Lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun, who had once served as chairman of the board of Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation, urged the Legislative Council’s Subcommittee on Matters Relating to Railways, of which he is a member, to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the accident.

Tien noted that in the worst scenario, the launch of the new signaling system of the Tsuen Wan Line would be delayed for another six or 12 months.

Claiming that the design of the new signaling system is completely different from the existing one, MTR's Director of Electrical and Mechanical Services Alfred Sit Wing-hang told media on Monday that the department will conduct an in-depth, independent and comprehensive analysis and investigation to ensure the railway system is safe and reliable for use before the new signal system can be put into service.

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