SCMP Wednesday, November 7, 2001

Power failure strands commuters


Around 9,000 commuters were stranded in yesterday's morning rush hour after overhead cables snapped, halting both the Airport Express and Tsing Yi MTR lines for more than three hours.
Passengers had to be taken to their destinations by a fleet of minibuses after the cables snapped shortly after 6am. Normal services were resumed at 9.17am.
Minutes after services began at 6am engineers discovered a section of the overhead line just outside Tsing Yi station had broken, a Mass Transit Railway Corporation spokesman said.
"We suspect a midnight engineering train undergoing maintenance work severed the lines, causing services to be interrupted. The incident is under investigation," deputy corporate relations manager Jeremy Lau said.
Long queues formed at both Tsing Yi and Tung Chung stations as 116 emergency shuttle buses deployed by the MTR struggled to keep up with commuters trying to get to work and school.
One commuter said the MTRC's emergency service was confusing.
"I didn't know where to get the shuttle buses and even the MTR staff couldn't tell me. It wasn't until I got outside the terminus I saw the sign," he said.
Airport Express passengers rushing to catch flights were forced to take connecting shuttle buses from Tsing Yi.
Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong legislator Lau Kong-wah was unhappy with the breakdown, saying there had been several others. "There were at least three similar cases last year and every time it's a different cause at a different location," he said.
The last incident occurred in June during heavy rain. "We have asked the company to look into the problems but evidently their investigations have not been thorough enough," Mr Lau said.
" This latest incident was quite serious, affecting a large number of people during rush hour. Although the MTR set up shuttle buses to ferry passengers, their frequency was not high enough," he said.
"We hope this will prompt them to step up their investigations into the ongoing problems with overhead cables.
"The Airport Express and Tung Chung lines are newer than both the KCR and the regular MTR lines, yet it has the greatest fault frequency. That is strange," Mr Lau said.
The Democratic Party issued a statement yesterday criticising the MTR emergency shuttle services, saying the firm had failed to act quickly enough to ease the confusion.
Unionist legislator Lau Chin-shek, said that although yesterday's incident was caused by reasons different to previous incidents, the company should check its maintenance controls to avoid a repeat.
"Travel to and from Tung Chung is very dependent on the Tung Chung line, as there is no other way for people to move to and from that area," he said.
Hong Kong Airport Authority spokesperson Chris Donnolley said no flights had been delayed.