HK’s MTR Corp investigating if power supply issue was to blame for unprecedented six-hour disruption

17-Oct-2018 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong’s railway operator is investigating whether a power supply issue at its control centre in Tsing Yi was behind an unprecedented service disruption to four rail lines on Tuesday, the Post has learned.

The breakdown started shortly before 6am on the Island line, Kwun Tong line and Tsuen Wan line and subsequently affected the Tseung Kwan O line. Train services gradually resumed at 11.45am.

The six-hour disruption, which affected millions of commuters during the morning peak hour, was due to a fault in the signalling system. A source familiar with the situation said all affected trains were manually driven after the system broke down.

“Staff are checking if the power supply at Tsing Yi went wrong, causing a failure of the computer system that manages the scheduling of trains,” the source said. “We received an instruction that from 6am onwards, trains on the three lines would be operated manually by drivers until further notice.”

The Tsing Yi Super Operations Control Centre is the nerve centre for all MTR trains.

The instructions for manual operations were in place until noon. The source said it meant the trains were running at 23km/h (14mph) instead of their normal speed of 60km/h (37mph).

Describing the service disruptions as “serious”, the source warned that manual driving could pose risks as train drivers could suffer from fatigue.

In 2016 the MTR Corporation warned of possible ongoing delays to the first trains of the day due to a long period of tests to be conducted over the next decade for upgrading the signalling systems of seven railway lines.

The move was supposedly to raise capacity by 10 per cent from 2018 to 2026.

The tests were to be conducted in phases during non-traffic hours after midnight at various sections along the Tsuen Wan line, Island line, Kwun Tong line, Tseung Kwan O line, Disneyland Resort line, Tung Chung line and the Airport Express.

They were set to take years to complete because of the short window available after train services cease for the day.

MTR Corp operations director Adi Lau Tin-shing on Tuesday said staff were investigating whether the fault had been caused by the signalling system upgrades, which are carried out every night.

On Monday night, work for the improvements and related testing were conducted on the Tsuen Wan line.

“We need a detailed investigation to find the real cause of this failure and whether this had something to do with the daily upgrades,” Lau said.

A central control centre delivered signalling instructions to computer systems on different sections of track for the operation of trains, he said.

“This morning when we started to prepare our morning services we found three lines had a signalling problem, and we couldn’t pass the operation signals to the trains.”

Lau confirmed that all affected trains on Tuesday morning had been operating manually at slow speeds.

When staff rebooted more than 20 computer systems one by one and reconnected them to the central control centre, they then started to function properly.

“We will have further discussions with our engineering staff to ensure a stable rail service for the evening peak hours,” Lau said.


Category: Hong Kong

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