MTR confirms cancellation of overnight service for Mid-Autumn Festival, cites safety fears linked to HK protest violence

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

Hongkongers planning to stay out late to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival on Friday will have to find another way home after the city’s troubled rail giant cancelled its overnight services.

The MTR Corporation released a statement on Thursday over the arrangements on the eve of the traditional Chinese festival, confirming an exclusive report by the Post on Wednesday.

Amid the backdrop of months of anti-government protests, during which dozens of MTR stations have been vandalised, the corporation said the decision came after a risk assessment with relevant government departments in light of “the recent situation”.

The rare move came after the rail operator became the target of protesters’ anger, and has been accused of working with the police and the government against demonstrators.

“Having conducted a risk assessment with relevant government departments in the light of the recent situation, the corporation will maintain normal service hours on the Mid-Autumn Festival, and overnight service will not be provided,” the corporation said.

It promised to step up the frequency of trains on various lines from 3pm to cope with the anticipated increase in passenger numbers, while special crowd control arrangements would be in place at busy stations.

Traditionally, Chinese families hold reunion dinners on the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival with their loved ones, with some firms allowing employees to leave work early.

Earlier, Tam Kin-chiu, the vice-chair of the Hong Kong Federation of Railway Trade Unions, told the Post it had urged MTR Corp management to cancel the overnight services, citing risk concerns.

He said the management intended to scrap the round-the-clock services during the festival for security reasons.

The rail operator has been suspending services at some stations, and even closing them ahead of, or during protests, a move that led critics to accuse it of kowtowing to Beijing after state newspaper, People’s Daily, published a commentary criticising the corporation.

In response, protesters began smashing up stations, vandalising security cameras, travel card readers, ticketing machines, glass doors, turnstiles and station control rooms. They have frequently set off fire extinguishers and fire hosepipes in the stations when confronting police.

Overnight MTR services are normally available four times a year during the Mid-Autumn Festival, Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve and the night before the Lunar New Year.

The Transport Department said it had contacted public transport operators to ask them to step up their services on Friday, in response to the MTR Corp’s latest arrangements.


Category: Hong Kong

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