LCQ20: Railway service
A number of railway service disruptions have occurred in recent months, causing inconvenience to passengers. For example, a signalling failure occurred on the Kwun Tong Line Extension (KTLE) on December 5 last year (i.e. less than two months after its commissioning), resulting in a disruption of the train services between Whampoa Station and Tiu Keng Leng Station for almost two hours. Under the mechanism established by the Government and the MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL) for notification of service disruptions, MTRCL is required to notify the Transport Department within eight minutes whenever any service disruption that has lasted for eight minutes or is expected to last for eight minutes or more occurs; a fine will be imposed on MTRCL for any service disruption that lasts for 31 minutes or more, and the fines must be used for the provision of fare concessions to passengers in the coming year (penalty mechanism). In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it knows the respective numbers of service disruptions that have occurred, since last year, on various railway lines (except for KTLE and the South Island Line (SIL)) that lasted for (i) not more than eight minutes, (ii) eight minutes or more but less than 31 minutes, and (iii) 31 minutes or more; among such disruptions, of the respective numbers of those caused by (iv) equipment failures, (v) human errors, (vi) passengers' misbehaviour, (vii) inclement weather and (viii) other problems; the amount of fines payable by MTRCL under the penalty mechanism and, among such fines, the amount that will be used by MTRCL this year for the provision of fare concessions to passengers ;
(2) whether it knows the respective numbers of service disruptions that have occurred on KTLE and SIL, since their commissioning, that lasted for (i) not more than eight minutes, (ii) eight minutes or more but less than 31 minutes, and (iii) 31 minutes or more; of the amount of fines payable by MTRCL under the penalty mechanism and, among such fines, the amount that will be used by MTRCL this year for the provision of fare concessions to passengers;
(3) whether it knows if MTRCL has investigated the causes of the service disruptions mentioned in (2); if MTRCL has, of the respective numbers of disruptions caused by (i) equipment failures, (ii) human errors, (iii) passengers' misbehaviour, (iv) inclement weather, (v) teething problems of new systems and (vi) other problems; if not, the reasons for that;
(4) whether it knows the number of times for which MTRCL has arranged, since last year, free shuttle bus services for transporting affected passengers during railway service disruptions, as well as the districts, routes and number of passengers involved in each of such arrangements;
(5) of the current balance of fines collected under the penalty mechanism; given that MTRCL set aside $186 million for the 10% Same-Day Second-Trip Discount promotion last year, whether the Government knows if MTRCL will benefit its passengers this year by re-introducing such promotional fare discount or through other more direct means; and
(6) whether it will, in order to ensure that MTRCL will replace train components on a regular basis and enhance train safety and service quality, (i) establish a more stringent penalty mechanism, e.g. by extending the scope of the penalty mechanism to cover service disruptions which last for eight minutes or more, (ii) include the accumulated total amount of fines paid as a consideration under the Fare Adjustment Mechanism, and (iii) require MTRCL to set aside a specified percentage of the operating expenses for repair and maintenance of the railway system; if so, of the details?
My consolidated reply to the Hon Chan Chi-chuen's question is as follows:
(1) According to the existing railway incident reporting mechanism, the MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL) is required to notify the Transport Department within eight minutes any railway incident which has caused train service disruption of eight minutes or is expected to cause disruption of eight minutes or more (Note 1). In 2016, there were 117 incidents which caused service disruption of eight minutes or above due to factors within the MTRCL's control (including equipment failure and human factor), which is the lowest since the Rail Merger in 2007. The figures on train service disruptions occurred in the MTR system (excluding Kwun Tong Line (Extension)(KTE) and South Island Line (SIL)) due to various factors from 2016 to January 2017 are at Annex 1. Final figures of February 2017 are not available yet.
According to the Service Performance Arrangement (SPA) introduced after the review of the MTR Fare Adjustment Mechanism (FAM) in 2013, the MTRCL will pay proceeds for railway service disruptions of 31 minutes or above caused by factors within MTRCL's control, according to the duration of disruption, for the provision of "10% Same Day Second Trip Discount". There were seven such incidents in 2016 (excluding KTE and SIL). The MTRCL is required to pay proceeds of $13.5 million, which will be fully returned to passengers by means of fare concession this year. There was no such incident in January 2017.
(2) and (3) The KTE and SIL were commissioned on October 23 and December 28, 2016 respectively. The figures on train service disruptions of eight minutes or above and 31 minutes or above since their commissioning (as at end-January 2017), as well as the causes of these disruptions, are at Annex 2.
Since the commissioning of these two new railway lines, there was one service disruption of 31 minutes or above which was caused by factors within MTRCL's control in 2016. According to the SPA, the MTRCL will need to pay proceeds of $1 million, which will be returned to passengers by means of fare concession this year in accordance with the mechanism. There was no such incident in January 2017.
(4) The MTRCL has formulated free shuttle bus deployment plans for railway incidents. In the event of train service suspension at certain sections of the system due to railway incidents, free shuttle bus service will be arranged to take affected passengers to the nearest MTR station still under normal operation to continue their journeys. The MTRCL has entered into agreements with bus operators for the provision of such service. The free MTR shuttle bus service is an emergency supplementary measure. Given the limited carrying capacity of shuttle buses, it is intended to relieve the inconvenience to passengers but not as a substitute for normal train service.
From 2016 to January 2017, free MTR shuttle bus service was activated by the MTRCL in 24 railway incidents. Details are at Annex 3.
(5) After the review of the MTR FAM in 2013, a Profit Sharing Mechanism (Note 2) and SPA mentioned above have been introduced, requiring the MTRCL to pay proceeds for the provision of "10% Same Day Second Trip Discount" in accordance with the mechanisms. The proceeds paid by the MTRCL from 2013 to 2016 in accordance with these two mechanisms are at Annex 4. In 2016, the MTRCL paid $186 million for providing "10% Same Day Second Trip Discount" from June to October. Such proceeds are the total amount of proceeds paid by the MTRCL under the two mechanisms, instead of the proceeds under the SPA only. The proceeds have been fully returned to passengers.
The Government and MTRCL are jointly reviewing the MTR FAM. The main direction of the review is to see how the operation of the FAM could better respond to public concern about the relationship between the FAM and MTRCL's profitability as well as passengers' affordability, whilst still respecting the financial prudence required of MTRCL as a listed company, on the premise that a transparent fare adjustment mechanism based on public and objective data and a direct-drive formula will be retained. The review will cover individual elements of the existing FAM, including the Profit Sharing Mechanism and SPA.
(6) The objective of introducing the SPA in 2013 is to encourage the MTRCL to enhance the inspection and examination of various railway equipment and systems, so as to maintain good operational condition. Nevertheless, the specific arrangement should strike an appropriate balance and avoid imposing heavy burden over the front-line railway personnel, pushing them to rush the safety inspection and urgent repair under a tight timeframe to avoid punishment, which might have negative implication for the quality or even put railway safety at risk. In any event, the Government and MTRCL will review whether the existing arrangement can be enhanced in the current review of the MTR FAM, on the premise that such appropriate balance should be maintained.
The MTRCL has a stringent asset management system, which sets out appropriate procedures and timetable for the maintenance, renewal and replacement of various components of the railway system, taking into account their expected asset life, usage and criticality to the railway system of individual components, and prepare estimates of the expenditure accordingly. Currently, the MTRCL invests more than $7 billion per year in maintaining and renewing its railway asset. The MTRCL will also, based on operational needs, earmark additional fund to procure new railway assets. For example, in 2015, the MTRCL additionally committed about $9.3 billion to procure 93 new urban line trains and replace the signalling systems of seven railway lines to enhance service quality. And, in 2015, the revenue of MTRCL's transport operation business in Hong Kong was $16.9 billion. As a comparison, we can see that the MTRCL adopts an aggressive strategy in the investment in maintaining, renewing and procuring railway assets. The actual amount of investment in railway assets every year depends on actual operational needs. Funds will be earmarked where needed and it is not necessary to set a pre-determined target.
Note 1: Service disruptions of less than eight minutes have relatively minor impact on passengers. The MTRCL is not required to report such incidents to the Transport Department.
Note 2: The MTRCL will pay proceeds for providing fare discounts to passengers in the next year based on the underlying business profit in each year, with a view to sharing the Corporation's profit with citizens. The underlying business profit covers profit from all businesses of the MTRCL, including the property developments and overseas ventures of the MTRCL.
Ends/Wednesday, March 1, 2017
Issued at HKT 17:27
Issued at HKT 17:27