MTR faces fine after 2-day service suspension on Tsuen Wan Line

March 21, 2019 13:26
MTR and Fire Services Department personnel work to restore services on the Tsuen Wan Line following Monday's train collision and derailment. Photo: MTR Corp.

The government is set to impose a fine on MTR Corp for this week's rail service suspension that resulted from a train collision and derailment on the Tsuen Wan Line, the Transport and Housing Bureau (THB) said.

Under the existing service performance arrangement, a fine will be imposed on the rail operator for any major service disruption caused by equipment failure or human factors, which is 31 minutes or above. For 31 minutes or more but less than or equal to one hour, the MTR can be fined HK$1 million.

It can be fined HK$5 million for a four-hour delay and another HK$2.5 million for each succeeding hour, with the upper limit set at HK$25 million per case.

As the suspension of the Central-Admiralty train service lasted two days, Monday and Tuesday, the MTR may have to pay the maximum fine according to the service performance arrangement, although the exact amount has yet to be determined.

At a media session on Wednesday, Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan said the current penalty mechanism does not specify how much the MTR should be fined for service disruptions caused by a train collision.

Chan said the government will look into the existing mechanism for penalties, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

“I have to say when this mechanism was being devised, they might not have considered such a case,” Chan said.

“Therefore, we need to look into the seriousness of the incident and also the appropriateness of the penalty in due course,” the transport chief said.

Chan stressed that the highest priority at present should be given to finding out why the two trains that were testing a new signaling system for the Tsuen Wan Line collided, causing one of them to derail.

Then a remedy should be devised to ensure that testing and operation of MTR trains and systems are safe in the days ahead, he said.

Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting, who is a member of the Legislative Council’s Subcommittee on Matters Relating to Railways, said the incident not only caused the suspension of services between Central and Admiralty stations but also disrupted services in other parts of the Tsuen Wan line and multiple interchange stations.

Lam urged MTR and the THB to review the existing penalty mechanism, which he said is unable to reflect how serious the incident was.

Lawmaker Ben Chan Han-pan, also a member of the subcommittee, said it is possible that MTR may end up getting away with any monetary penalty for the Tsuen Wan Line service disruptions.

If that’s the case, it is hoped that MTR will take the initiative to pay a fine of HK$25 million in light of the gravity of the incident, Chan said.

The lawmaker from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong also called on MTR to offer fare concessions of 20 percent discount for a week and other tokens of appreciation to its frontline staff for their tireless work in restoring the rail services.

Lawmaker Michael Luk Chung-hung from the Federation of Trade Unions urged the government to take tough steps over what he called an “unprecedented event”, RTHK reported.

Meanwhile, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor told lawmakers in the Chief Executive’s Question Time at the Legco on Wednesday that she is concerned about how MTR, which has been involved in several scandals and major incidents in recent years, can strike a balance between its daily operations and railway construction projects.

Noting that no institution can keep itself in the same shape after years of operations, Lam said the government, MTR’s largest shareholder, will strive to strengthen its supervisory role over the company.

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