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THB responds to media enquiries on safety of new trains procured by MTRCL

     In response to media enquiries on whether the Transport and Housing Bureau (THB) is aware of the cracks in the car bodies of Singapore Mass Rail Transit (SMRT) trains, a spokesman for THB responded today (July 7) as follows:

     According to the records retrieved at the moment, the public electronic mailbox of the Secretary for Transport and Housing (STH)'s Office received an email from a member of the public on January 30, 2015.  In an attachment to his email, he raised his views on the new trains for high-speed rail and urban lines, including the issue on cracks found on car bodies of SMRT trains.  The member of the public sent another email to the public electronic mailbox of STH's Office five days later, i.e. February 4, 2015.  An attachment to this email illustrated the benefits of inviting another train manufacturer to participate in the bidding for the urban line trains contract.  Following the usual practice, an officer in STH's Office referred the two emails to the relevant subject team for follow-up actions.  An officer from the subject team sent an email to that member of the public on February 5, 2015 to acknowledge receipt of his two emails on January 30 and February 4, 2015 and stated that a reply would be provided later.

     The spokesman pointed out that given the vast number of correspondences to STH, his Office will usually refer them to the subject teams for follow up and reply to the sender direct.  Unless policy steer from STH is required, it is normally not necessary to report the details on each and every correspondence to STH.  STH was not aware of the existence or the content of the aforesaid emails at that time.

     The frontline officer of the subject team already referred the two emails to the Railway Development Office (RDO) of the Highways Department (HyD) on February 4, 2015 for follow-up action.  However, it is now revealed that in the course of forwarding the two emails at the same time, the officer only included the attachment to the email of February 4, 2015 and inadvertently missed out the attachments to the email of January 30, 2015.

     The records available show that after receiving the referral from the THB, the RDO of HyD sent an email to MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL) on the same day, requesting information regarding the procurement of the new urban line trains, including procurement procedure, criteria for shortlisting eligible train manufacturers and procurement timetable, etc.  The MTRCL verbally replied the RDO of HyD that as the procurement work was in progress, they might not be able to respond immediately.

     THB officers are still researching into the relevant file records to find out the follow-up actions involved to enable a more comprehensive understanding of the handling of the case at that time.  Further relevant information will be disclosed once available.

     In any event, the THB reiterates that the Government's quality control standard and procedures for all new trains are stringent and must meet international standards.  In light of public concern on the arrangements for the procurement of new trains by the MTRCL, the THB has requested the Corporation to closely follow up on the matter and update the Bureau on the situation.

     According to the usual procedures, the MTRCL personnel will station in factories to monitor the whole manufacture, assembly and testing processes, and conduct a series of tests.  After the delivery of trains to Hong Kong, they can be put into service only after passing the tests and receiving approval from the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department.  Throughout the process, a number of independent experts will also conduct tests and verifications, to ensure that the trains reach internationally recognised safety standards before they can be put into service.

Ends/Thursday, July 7, 2016
Issued at HKT 21:40


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