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LCQ14: Fire service installations and equipment in Mass Transit Railway stations

     Following is a question by the Hon Lau Wong-fat and a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok, in the Legislative Council today (December 17):


     As the patronage of MTR has continuously increased in recent years, some members of the public are concerned about the adequacy of fire service facilities at railway stations.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it knows what fire service equipment has been installed at railway stations both the concourses and platforms of which are situated below the ground level;

(2) whether it knows the current number of railway stations which are not equipped with automatic water sprinkler systems (together with a detailed list of the names of such stations), and the reasons for not installing such a system;

(3) whether it has set a ceiling on the number of passengers that each of the platforms at railway stations may accommodate, and required the MTR Corporation Limited to suspend the entry of passengers to a platform when the number of passengers there has reached the ceiling, so as to forestall the occurrence, in the event of fire, of trampling accident because the escape route is overcrowded; and

(4) whether it will consider limiting the number of shops in the concourses of railway stations, so as to avoid an excessive number of people congregating and staying inside railway stations?



     In consultation with the relevant bureau and departments, as well as the MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL), the Administration's reply to the four parts of the question is as follows:

(1) and (2) At present, safety requirements of Mass Transit Railway (MTR) stations are subject to the approval of the Safety and Security Coordinating Committee (SSCC). The Committee is chaired by a representative of the Railways Branch of the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) and comprises representatives from the Fire Services Department (FSD), Buildings Department (BD), Highways Department (HyD), Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) and MTRCL.

     MTRCL conducts risk assessment for each station in seeking approval of fire safety requirements for MTR stations. With reference to FSD's "Codes of Practice for Minimum Fire Service Installations and Equipment and Inspection, Testing and Maintenance of Installations and Equipment" as well as relevant performance-based design factors, MTRCL proposes fire service provisions suitable for individual stations for the SSCC's scrutiny, while FSD provides comments to the SSCC. Given the different geographical locations and features of individual stations, the fire service provisions for each station may vary.  Generally speaking, MTR stations have the following fire service installations and equipment: fire hydrants/hose reel systems, emergency power supply and lighting, exit signs, portable hand-operated approved appliances (e.g. fire extinguishers), fire alarm and detection systems, fire control centre, etc.

     Sprinkler systems are installed in areas with a higher fire risk (e.g. shops) in MTR stations, while corresponding fire service installations and equipment are put in place at other areas in each station for passenger and public safety.

(3) There exists a ceiling on the number of passengers that can be accommodated on a MTR station platform.  Such ceiling varies for platforms of different stations as the number and design of compartments of trains serving various railway lines are not the same.  A station platform is designed in accordance with the number of compartments and carrying capacity of trains to ensure it can operate in coordination with the train service.  Indeed, a station platform can safely hold up to the maximum carrying capacity of the trains it serves.

     MTRCL has devised passenger flow management measures to maintain order when station platforms or concourses are overcrowded. Such measures include deploying staff at concourses and various exits of stations to provide passengers with information on train service, as well as at platforms to facilitate boarding and alighting to ensure smooth operation of train service and passenger safety. When necessary, MTRCL will suspend the operation of some turnstiles and escalators to limit the number of passengers entering platforms from concourses.  Should the situation warrant, MTRCL will suspend entry to platforms to ensure passenger safety.

     In the event of fire at stations, MTRCL will activate the contingency plan endorsed by FSD to evacuate passengers. During the planning of MTR stations, their design capacity is one of the considerations. Sufficient exits are provided to ensure safe evacuation even when the number of passengers inside the stations reaches the ceiling of the design capacity. Meanwhile, passenger flow management measures mentioned above can control the number of passengers inside the stations. With the implementation of these complementary measures, the risk of chaos during fire incidents can be minimised.

(4) MTRCL takes passenger safety and train service operation as the priority when planning for shops in MTR stations.  Besides, during the planning process, MTRCL has to obtain approval from government departments for matters such as changes to locations and areas of existing shops and increase or decrease in the number of shops. Government departments, including HyD, EMSD, FSD, BD, Transport Department, Lands Department, HKPF and Planning Department, are involved. Issues to be considered include the impact of the design of shops in stations and changes of such design on various directions of flow of passengers to and from the station, station safety and security (including evacuation routes, firefighting and rescue accesses, fire service installations and fire resisting constructions), etc.

     MTRCL must obtain approval from the government departments mentioned above before they can actualise their planning for shops in stations. In vetting MTRCL's applications, the government departments will duly consider various factors, including passenger flow and evacuation routes in case of fire, with a view to ensuring that railway service and safety will not be adversely affected.

Ends/Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Issued at HKT 15:49


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