An expert has slammed MTR for possibly breaching its own safety rules after passengers on a Central-bound MTR train found themselves alone and bewildered in a pitch-black MTR tunnel this morning following a train derailment.
Passengers were ordered to evacuate and walk along the track after a crash and suspected fire in Yau Ma Tei station at 9.30 this morning.
Around 150 of the 700 passengers aboard exited the stricken train from the rear emergency exit and then walked back to Mong Kok, without light or staff to guide them and facing many hazards including trackside obstacles and a section of the Tsuen Wan Line tunnel shared by operational Kwun Tong Line trains.
An expert speaking anonymously to Transit Jam says many protocols were breached in the escape.
“There is a crossover track near Mong Kok, where Kwun Tong Line is adjacent to the Tsuen Wan Line. Passengers who were interviewed by media told that ‘they saw trains passing by next to them’. Which indicates clearly procedures were not followed,” he said.
An internal MTR rule book seen by Transit Jam says, in case of detrainment, all “train movements in the affected area must cease”; tunnel lights must be switched on and staff with “handlamps, radios and loudhailers” be present to guide the way.
But passengers said the evacuation was confusing, with no guidance from staff after the initial instruction from the driver. The only light in the tunnel, they said, was from their own smartphones.
Glossy PR pictures from an MTR evacuation drill earlier this year showed caring staff in hi-viz jackets helping passengers down into well-lit escape tunnels, with a special tunnel access vehicle coming to their aid.
But in today’s derailment, none of that was in evidence.
MTR has so far refused to answer English questions on the trackside drama faced by the evacuating passengers.
But while lawmaker Gary Zhang, who previously worked for MTR, told reporters at the scene a tunnel evacuation was a “last resort” and that today’s incident did not merit such a dangerous escape, the expert says the tunnel escape may have been the right call.
“Since the train captain thought there was a fire, he had to decide quickly. So it couldn’t be said the decision to evacuate onto tracks was completely wrong,” he said.
Around 50 workers were seen on the platform this evening as crews struggle to re-track the train and take it to the Tsuen Wan depot for a full investigation.
The government’s Electrical and Mechanical Services Department has said it is “deeply concerned” about the crash and has ordered MTR to submit an incident report as soon as possible.