HK’s railway operator warns MRT-3 train derailment imminent, may cause substantial deaths

The Mass Transit Railway Corporation Limited (MTR), operator of the rapid transit railway system in Hong Kong commissioned by the Metro Rail Transit Corporation (MRTC) to conduct a study on Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3), warned of the possibility of train derailment that may cause a number of deaths.

As stated in the MTR Corporation’s Asset Condition and Capability Report, among the MRT-3’s systems it audited, the condition of the track is very alarming and in need of prompt attention.

The MTR’s study included the inspection of the track at the mainline and at the depot, high-voltage power supply system and overhead catenary system, the signaling system, the rolling stock, the communications system, the stations and facilities.

Over the past three years, the MTR noted that the defects of the MRT-3 track increased four times and that the current maintenance strategy is insufficient to arrest the progress of defect.

The Hong Kong railway operator said the cases of broken rail are expected to continue to increase; making worse the safety risk. It recommended the replacement of the defective track sections, but stock is not sufficient.

The lives of the more than 600,000 commuters using the MRT-3 daily are in peril as the broken rail can potentially cause train derailment, the MTR warned.

“The fact that broken rail cases in the past had not led to train derailment should not be taken as an indication that it will not happen in the future. If a rail break does occur despite the speed restriction to 40 kilometers per hour and is unnoticed, the derailment risk would still be considerable.”

Aside from the poor condition of the MRT-3 track, these are the findings of the MTR study:

– The condition of rolling stocks or Light Rail Vehicles (LRVs) is disappointing. The reliability of the door system and automatic train protection equipment also need to be improved

– The station facilities are rated poor. As of August 2014, 10 out of the 46 escalators are out of order due to lack of spare parts.

Under the MTR’s five-level grading system, “poor” means major defect exists.

The MTR has two recommendations to arrest the MRT-3 problems:

– A $98 million rehabilitation plan that could be completed in 18 months or

– A comprehensive rehabilitation and upgrading of the system that includes new stocks.