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Investigation into Ngong Ping Skyrail cabin dislodgement completed (with video)

    An Expert Panel commissioned by the Government has completed its investigation into a cabin falling from Ngong Ping cable car system on June 11.

     Having thoroughly reviewed the cable car system (including its construction, operation and safety measures), the Expert Panel confirmed that the design of the system and the existing regulatory regime were both in line with international standards and practices.  The panel also made recommendations for enhancing the management, operation and maintenance of the system.  

     The Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Frederick Ma; Chairman of MTR Corporation, Dr Raymond Ch'ien Kuo-fung; Director of Electrical and Mechanical Services, Mr Ho Kwong-wai; Commissioner for Tourism, Miss Au King-chi; Assistant Director of Electrical and Mechanical Services, Mr Fan Chan; and Project Director of MTR Corporation, Mr Russell Black, hosted a press conference today (September 18) to announce the findings of the investigation.  They outlined the rectification and other arrangements to be implemented for improving the cable car system.

     According to the panel's findings, the cabin fell in the course of a brake test which was part of the annual examination of the ropeway.  Instead of functioning under computer control in normal operation, the brake system was turned into manual operation during the incident.  The criminal investigation by the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) revealed that a person in Skyrail (the operating company of the cable car system) might have contravened the Aerial Ropeways (Safety) Ordinance.  The Department of Justice had initiated prosecution.  

     "As advised by the Department of Justice, the case has entered the sub judice phase.  As it is now a matter for the court, the Government is not in a position to discuss the case or release any information relating to the cause of the incident," Mr Ma said.

     "We have already expressed our concern to the MTR Corporation, as owner of the ropeway, on whether Skyrail's management is competent in maintaining reliable services and living up to public expectations," Mr Ma said.  The Government has urged the MTR Corporation to critically review the overall operation, management and maintenance of the cable car system and implement necessary improvement measures before the relaunch," he said.

     "Safety is always our top priority.  It is essential for the MTR Corporation to implement improvement measures, including the prerequisites recommended by the Expert Panel, before the relaunch.  The MTR Corporation must first complete satisfactorily all aspects of the recovery programme before it applies to EMSD for requisite statutory approvals for the cable car system to take any passengers," Mr Ma said.

     Although the Expert Panel has confirmed that the design of the cable car system and the regulatory regime are in line with international standards and practices, the panel considered that there was room for further improvement in the management, operation and maintenance of the system.

     In view of service disruptions after the launch of the cable car, EMSD had continuously asked the MTR Corporation and Skyrail to make improvements to the operation, management and maintenance of the cable car system to ensure its smooth operation and service reliability.  The Expert Panel has also endorsed these improvement measures suggested by EMSD before the June 11 incident.  

     The MTR Corporation has informed the Government that it will form a new subsidiary company with an international professional management team to take over management and operation of the cable car system from Skyrail.

     In light of the Expert Panel's recommendations, the MTR Corporation will implement a series of immediate and continuous measures, including implementing ISO 9000, incorporating the best safety measures and quality management models, retraining operation and maintenance staff, and running a rigorous trial run programme.

     "The government fully understands the difficulties faced by the MTR Corporation's tenants at the Ngong Ping Village during cable car suspension," Mr Ma said.  I have already urged the MTR Corporation to continue to liaise closely with its tenants and assist them during this difficult period."

     The MTR Corporation undertakes to embark on a series of promotional and community engagement programmes with a view to re-establishing Ngong Ping 360 as a popular tourist attraction.  The MTR Corporation will also work closely with the travel trade and Hong Kong Tourism Board in promoting the relaunch.  

     A brake system test was conducted after the cable car finished its operation on June 11 this year.  According to the findings of the Expert Panel, the brake test conducted that evening was part of an annual examination.  A cabin fell onto the ground about 8 o'clock that night.

    In view of the seriousness of the incident, EMSD immediately ordered the MTR Corporation to close the ropeway to the use of the public and submit a report on the incident.  In parallel, the Government appointed an Expert Panel comprising two renowned independent overseas experts on ropeway incidents and systems and the Assistant Director of Electrical and Mechanical Services. The Expert Panel was tasked to identify the cause of the incident; review the management, design, operation and maintenance the cable car system; and identify remedial measures and recommend prerequisite requirements for re-opening the cable car system for use by the public.

     The Expert Panel was chaired by Professor Dr Gjbor Oplatka, past President and Honourary Member of the International Organisation for the Study of the Endurance of Wire Ropes of the International Organisation for Transportation by Cables, with Professor Dr Josef Nejez, Chairman of the Austrian Standards Committee on Ropeways, as Deputy.

     During its nine-month operation since opening on September 18, 2006, Ngong Ping cable car had carried more than 1.5 million passengers.

Ends/Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Issued at HKT 18:04


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