MTR faces commuter ire after East Rail Line service disruption

July 26, 2019 16:56
MTR says its workers had to spend a lot of time to set things right after an engineering vehicle came off the track in the early hours of Thursday. Photo: MTR

MTR Corporation has come under fire following a nine-hour service disruption on the East Rail Line on Thursday, with commuters questioning why such breakdowns are happening all too frequently.

“MTR is raising ticket prices all the time but still cannot deliver proper service?" one passenger vented in an online forum.

Another person wondered why the rail operator appears to be falling short when it comes to operations and maintenance of key infrastructure. 

The company may not be devoting enough resources for inspections on support facilities, another citizen commented.

The criticism came after MTR suspended train service between Fo Tan and Tai Po Market stations yesterday morning following an incident involving a maintenance vehicle.

Sometime after 3 am, a repair and maintenance train derailed and got stuck on the track near University Station, causing huge problems.

As engineers were unable to put the train back on track and move it quickly, MTR was forced to announce a service disruption that morning.

There were no trains between Fo Tan and Tai Po Market for nine hours starting from 5 am, causing problems for several commuters during the morning peak travel period.

The rail operator immediately deployed 100 workers to fix the problem. During the suspension period, the company arranged 140 shuttle buses to take affected passengers to Tai Po, University, Sha Tin and Fo Tan stations.

However, as the shuttle buses have limited carrying capacity, many passengers had to wait for an hour or two to get on the vehicles.

The incident left commuters seething with frustration and rage, prompting some of them to take to the social media to blast the rail operator.

Noting that most office-goers depend on MTR for their daily commute, people wondered how the city can tolerate lengthy train service breakdowns or station closures.  

Tony Lee Kar-yun, MTR’s head of operations engineering, said the company will fully investigate the incident.

According to him, there were a few major obstacles when trying to restore the service.

First, the maintenance train was very heavy, weighing about 80 tons. It went off track towards the right at a curve, and it became tilted, causing safety concerns.

MTR workers had to put the vehicle back on track inch by inch, which is why it took so long, the executive claimed.

The train service resumed at 2:27 pm.