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

     The spokesman for the Transport and Housing Bureau (THB) responded to media enquiries last Thursday (July 7) on whether the Bureau was aware of the cracks on the car bodies of Singapore Mass Rapid Transit (SMRT) trains. Subsequently, THB officers carefully researched all 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. The spokesman made a further response today (July 11) as follows:

     The public electronic mailbox of the Secretary for Transport and Housing (STH) received separate emails from a person on January 30 and February 4, 2015, raising his views on the new trains for high-speed rail and urban lines, including the issue of cracks found on the car bodies of SMRT trains. After researching the file records, we discovered that the same person sent an email about safety issues relating to high-speed rail trains to the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) in April, 2014. The issue of cracks found on car bodies of SMRT trains was mentioned in that email. After receiving the email, the EMSD forwarded it to the Railway Development Office (RDO) of the Highways Department (HyD), and asked the RDO to follow up on the person's views on the design and tendering of high-speed rail trains. The EMSD also said that they would follow up on the issues relating to train safety.

     The RDO of the HyD replied to the EMSD later in June and provided a consolidated response with the MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL) on the views raised by that person. With respect to the cracks found on the car bodies of SMRT trains, the RDO said that SMRT trains were urban line trains, which was not the same type as high-speed rail trains.

     Thereafter, the STH's Office received a letter from the same person in November 2014, who expressed his concern on the safety of high-speed rail trains. The issue of cracks found on car bodies of SMRT trains was also mentioned in the letter. Following the usual practice, an officer in the STH's Office referred the letter to the relevant subject team for follow-up actions. The relevant subject team then referred the letter to the RDO of the HyD and the EMSD for follow-up actions. The two departments replied to the THB in December 2014, with the MTRCL's response incorporated into the RDO's reply. With respect to the cracks found on car bodies of SMRT trains, the RDO again pointed out that as SMRT trains were urban line trains, and their design, material class and suppliers were different from high-speed rail trains.

     From the above information, the MTRCL was already aware of the issue of SMRT trains back in 2014. Therefore, even though the frontline officer of the relevant subject team in the THB missed the attachments to the email of January 30, 2015 when the two emails sent to the STH's Office (i.e. the emails on January 30 and February 4, 2015) from that person were forwarded to the RDO of the HyD on February 4, 2015, it did not result in the MTRCL being unacquainted with the issue of SMRT trains. We also noted that the MTRCL confirmed that they were aware of the incident in 2014 and sought information from the Singaporean side. The MTRCL was informed that the incident did not affect the operational safety of trains. The rolling stock supplier would also take appropriate follow-up actions. The MTRCL considered that the incident did not affect future tender prequalification of the rolling stock supplier.

     In addition, records show that the person sent an email again to the THB on June 12, 2015, setting out mainly his views on the existing design of MTR trains and the tendering exercise for new trains for MTR urban lines. Apart from acknowledging receipt of this email, the Transport Department under the THB also issued a consolidated reply after co-ordinating the responses of the EMSD, the Environmental Protection Department and the Fire Services Department on July 31, 2015. The views expressed by the person in his email were also referred to the MTRCL on June 18, 2015 for reference.

     In any event, as reiterated by the THB when responding to media enquiries last Thursday (July 7), the Government's quality control standard and procedures for all new trains are stringent and must meet international standards. When responding to media enquiries on the same day and during its Board Chairman's public utterance on July 9, the MTRCL mentioned that the Corporation has stringent and detailed specification requirements on the design, supply, manufacture and testing of new trains. The MTRCL has sent personnel to station in the factories to monitor the whole manufacture and assembly processes. The new trains will undergo various tests in the city of origin and after being delivered to Hong Kong. All new trains, before being put into service, must pass all safety and service performance tests. No matter which company secures the tender, the supplier will be required to assemble, manufacture and test the trains in accordance with the contract provisions, technical specifications and equipment requirements set by the MTRCL. 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.

     As the department which regulates railway safety, the EMSD will monitor the entire process of local testing and commissioning work after the new trains are delivered to Hong Kong. The EMSD will conduct local safety tests for new trains in accordance with a set of stringent standards, regardless of the place of origin and supplier, to ensure that the trains can meet internationally recognised safety standards, before the Department approves the new trains to be put into service. Throughout the commissioning process, a number of independent experts will conduct tests and verifications to ensure that the trains reach internationally recognised safety standards.

Ends/Monday, July 11, 2016
Issued at HKT 19:37


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