HK train derailing: services returning to MTR East Rail line as fourth crack revealed

19-Sep-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

A fourth crack has been discovered on the track near to Hung Hom station as services partially returned to the MTR line where a train derailed a day earlier.

One of two platforms serving the East Rail line has reopened at the major interchange, which was closed for nearly 24 hours after several carriages of a commuter train came off the track on Tuesday morning.

It was revealed on Wednesday that another crack had been discovered on the track, bringing the total to four, according to the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department, which is to investigate the incident on the government’s behalf.

The derailment on Tuesday as the train approached Hung Hom station was the most serious in Hong Kong for two decades, with five passengers taken to hospital.

Cheung Kim-ching, chief engineer of railways at the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department, said part of the track was completely torn apart where there were two fractures measuring 30mm and 45mm in width.

“It will be one line of inquiry. We will invite experts to examine the material on whether the cracks were the cause or the result of the incident,” Cheung told a radio programme.

On Tuesday, rail operator the MTR Corporation faced questions over possible causes of the derailing, including cracks in the rail and replacement works carried out in the early hours of Tuesday.

Former railway chief and lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun suggested on Wednesday the point machine, or railway switch, could have caused the incident.

The MTR Corp’s chief of operations engineering Tony Lee Kar-yun shot down that suggestion on the radio. He also said there were no suspicious objects found on the tracks.

On Wednesday morning, some trains on the line from the Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau border districts were terminating at Hung Hom, but the service was ending at Mong Kok East station for others.

Trains from Hung Hom to Mong Kok East station were running at regular seven-minute intervals.

Services leave Mong Kok East for Lo Wu station every 31/2 minutes, while passengers going to Lok Ma Chau must change at Tai Po Market station, where trains are running at 12-minute intervals.

The wreckage of the derailed carriages had been cleared by morning, with one track remaining closed and blocked off with orange netting.

The cause of the derailment is not yet known, although the government and rail operator the MTR Corporation have vowed to conduct a “thorough investigation” and would not rule out any possible cause.

As the morning rush hour began, passengers began returning to platform four, where trains to Lo Wu station at the border had resumed services.

However, platform one remained closed, with a cordon blocking off escalators. The derailed train was stationed at the closed Hung Hom-Lo Wu platform.

Services were shut down on Tuesday when three carriages of a 12-car train heading to the terminus came off the track, injuring eight of the 500 passengers on board.

The rail operator was expected to be fined HK$25 million (US$3.2 million), the maximum financial penalty available, for Tuesday’s service delays, according to lawmaker Ben Chan Han-pan, who heads legislature’s transport panel.

About 200 staff were working overnight to remove carriages and carry out safety checks and repair work, the MTR Corporation said on Tuesday.

Danny Chiu, an engineer who lives in Wong Tai Sin and commutes to Hung Hom from Mong Kok East, said he was worried about future incidents, while also commending the rail operator for working through the night to restore service.

“I was not affected yesterday as I just took a different route to work. But I do hope the MTR can run smoothly with no other incidents from now on,” said Chiu.

A passenger waiting at the station on Wednesday, who gave her surname as Lee, said the rail operator had done “fairly well” in returning services.

“However, some small details, for example signage on the concourse to tell passengers which platform to go to, is a little lacking,” the clerk in her 40s added.

Lee, who was making her way to the Science Park in Sha Tin, said the derailment did not affect her trust in the city’s rail system, but added: “The MTR has been around for years now, it’s probably time to upgrade the trains and the tracks.”

Speaking on a radio programme, Henry Cheung Ni-sang, vice-chair of the Railway Signal Engineers Hong Kong branch, said the incident was rare as it happened to the middle section of the train, while the train was running at relatively slow speed.

“If there was something thrown onto the track, the first carriage would have derailed already,” said Henry Cheung.

He said it was likely the cracks were already there before the incident.

Meanwhile, three northbound and three southbound trains between Hung Hom and Guangzhou East in mainland China had resumed services on Tuesday following the derailment disruption.

This meant only a third of the nine return cross-border trains were operating on Wednesday morning.

The provisional shuttle bus service between Tai Wai and Diamond Hill stations, which ran on Tuesday after the derailment, has ended.


Category: Hong Kong

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