Fatal Citybus crash: camera didn’t spot broken-down truck because it was pointed the other way, HK’s Western Harbour Tunnel Company says

09-Mar-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

A truck that broke down on a Hong Kong motorway last week leading to a crash that killed two and injured 16 was in an area covered by cameras, but they were facing the other way, it transpired on Thursday.

In a response to media inquiries, the Western Harbour Tunnel Company said the site of the crash was within an area surveyed by rotating cameras, which complete a scan of the site by swivelling 180 degrees.

“Unfortunately, the camera was not turned to the side where the truck had the incident,” it said. There are 151 cameras covering the tubes and the tunnel areas, of which about 70 are rotating models.

The company added that staff members on patrol were making rounds at another area at the time and did not notice the breakdown and offer help. It explained that the patrol area covered a total of 300,000 square metres, including 16 tunnel lanes and stretches of road totalling 13km.

At about 9.30am on Monday morning, the truck broke down in the second lane of the four-lane highway, about 500 metres from the tunnel’s Kowloon entrance. Shortly before 10.30am, a Route 967 Citybus double-decker slammed into the stationary vehicle from behind. Both drivers were killed, and 15 bus passengers and one truck passenger were injured.

The company said on Tuesday that a caller reported the broken-down truck at 10.12am. Its control room immediately turned on an overhead warning sign and sent a recovery vehicle to the scene, but the crash happened shortly before the vehicle arrived.

The firm, which manages the West Kowloon Highway, where the crash took place, has been under pressure to explain why it took almost 45 minutes to become aware of the broken-down truck. A “performance pledge” on its website said it would take no more than three minutes for staff to arrive at the scene of an incident within the tunnel area.

The operator’s latest remarks on the rotating cameras drew immediate criticism from a transport expert.

Dr Hung Wing-tat, a fellow of the Hong Kong Society of Transportation Studies, said the explanation about the rotating cameras was unreasonable and unacceptable.

“You tell people you hadn’t even detected [the stranded truck], how could you keep the pledge?” asked Hung, who also questioned the firm’s credibility.

He added that a rotating camera could usually scan all areas in its range within a minute or so.

The company had said on Monday that the truck broke down 300 metres behind a surveillance camera and more than 500 metres from the toll booths, implying it was not covered by cameras. The Transport Department, however, said on Tuesday that the crash site was covered by the tunnel’s CCTV system, and there was no blind spot.

On Thursday, Commissioner for Transport Mable Chan Mei-bo said it had requested an investigation and a report from the firm.

She said she hoped the firm would roll out measures to improve the road monitoring system. The department would also examine whether the company’s performance pledge on traffic surveillance and incident handling was being kept.

The Transport Department had no further comment after the company’s latest remarks.

The company said it was considering a number of measures to ensure that such incidents could be handled in a timely fashion. These included upgrading its surveillance cameras to more efficient systems that would make scans more frequently, increasing patrol frequency, and putting up more signs with emergency contact information so drivers could notify staff about incidents.



Category: Hong Kong

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