1,500 passengers evacuate a stricken train: shuttle buses replaced trains for about four hours, with lengthy queues reported

MTR will look at other railways to improve its maintenance regime and will conduct a review of its asset management, effective immediately, to improve safety on the network after yet another train incident forcing passenger evacuation hit commuters yesterday morning.

The MTR board, which includes Hong Kong’s Secretary for Transport & Logistics Lam Sai-hung, has urged management to “make improvements to ensure safe and reliable train service” after a train de-coupling yesterday saw 1,500 passengers evacuated along the tracks. One person taken to hospital and the network was disrupted for about 4 hours.

Chairman of the board Rex Auyeung noted the government had ordered in-depth investigations into both the train decoupling at Tseung Kwan O yesterday and the Yau Ma Tei derailment on 13 November, both of which required train evacuation along the tracks.

“More importantly, the Corporation has to conduct a review on its existing asset management and maintenance regime to ensure that the management of railway assets can be maintained at a high standard,” he said in a statement yesterday.

MTR said it would review the existing system and examine “whether there is room for improvement of the regime by making reference to experience of other railways.”

The firm did not say which railways it would benchmark and did not respond to questions on the issue.

Global rail safety data is hard to find: there were around 98 reported train incidents since the beginning of 2021. Pakistan, Taiwan, Egypt, Mexico and China had the most deaths on the rails, while the US had the highest number of reported crashes (28), mostly by freight trains.

The preliminary report from the Yau Ma Tei incident highlights a number of maintenance and operational failures – most seriously, passengers were evacuating along a track area which was still operational. “Some of the detrained passengers would have seen [Kwun Tong Line] trains(s) running in the process,” said an MTR statement. “We consider the above arrangement absolutely undesirable.”

Passengers had been forced to evacuate along a pitch-black tunnel after the train crashed into platform doors at Yau Ma Tei.

MTR must provide the government a detailed investigation reports into the Tseung Kwan O decoupling by 4 February 2023. There was no timeline set by the board for the asset management review.

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