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LCQ1: Monitoring of railway services
     Following is a question by the Hon Tony Tse and a reply by the Secretary for Transport and Logistics, Mr Lam Sai-hung, in the Legislative Council today (November 30):


     There are views pointing out that a number of incidents involving train services of the MTR Corporation Limited (MTR) have occurred in recent years, including signalling system failures, as well as a train derailment and door detachment incident and a number of escalator step breakage accidents which happened this month, raising doubts over the repair, maintenance and inspection quality of the existing MTR facilities. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of MTR's follow-up work regarding the multiple incidents which happened this month;

(2) of the staffing establishments and estimated expenditures of the policy bureaux and government departments currently responsible for the monitoring of railway services, and whether performance indicators have been formulated for the relevant monitoring work; and

(3) given that the Government is the majority shareholder of MTR and has appointed official representatives to the Board of Directors of MTR, whether and specifically how the Government and such official representatives have discharged the duty of monitoring the railway services provided by MTR, and whether they have requested MTR to enhance the repair, maintenance and inspection quality of the existing facilities?



     Railway is an important part of public transport in Hong Kong, with an average patronage of over four million passenger trips per day. Railway safety is of utmost importance and the MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL) is duty-bound to provide safe and reliable railway services. The Government has all along required the MTRCL to carry out stringent railway inspection, maintenance and renewal to ensure the safety and reliability of the railway system.

     In consultation with the MTRCL, the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) and the Transport Department (TD), my reply to the question raised by the Hon Tony Tse is as follows:

(1) Following the MTR Tsuen Wan Line train incident on November 13, MTR station staff immediately carried out detrainment and arranged shuttle buses to serve train stations affected by the incident. The MTRCL also maintained close liaison with the Emergency Transport Co-ordination Centre of the TD to review and adjust the shuttle bus services according to passengers' needs and traffic conditions.  

     Following the incident, the MTRCL worked hard on the recovery works, including jacking the off-the-rail bogie back onto the rail and moving the train away from site, replacing the relevant track equipment, and carrying out detailed inspection and repair of the trackside signalling equipment and power supply system installation. After completion of the relevant works and that safe operation was confirmed, Tsuen Wan Line services resumed normal on the next day.

     On the investigation of the incident, at the Government's request, the MTRCL submitted a preliminary report on November 16, indicating that the incident was related to the collision of the train and a trackside metallic protection barrier. The MTRCL has conducted inspections and maintenance works for similar metallic protection barriers across the MTR network. At the EMSD's request, the MTRCL will also conduct a comprehensive review of trackside equipment and structures of the entire railway network, and explore the use of technology to strengthen real-time monitoring of trackside facilities. On incident handling, the MTRCL is reviewing relevant arrangements to ensure proper handling of emergencies and protect passengers’ safety.

     The MTRCL has also established an investigation panel and invited relevant experts to assist in looking into the cause of the incident. The MTRCL should submit a detailed investigation report to the Government within two months of the incident. Besides the cause of the incident, the detailed report should also include comprehensive improvement measures and implementation plan to prevent recurrence of similar incidents.

     Regarding the escalator incidents at Chai Wan Station and Tsim Sha Tsui Station on November 12 and 13 respectively, the MTRCL arranged registered escalator contractor to conduct detailed inspections of the escalators immediately after the incidents. The inspections revealed that both incidents were related to the wedging of passengers' shoes or clothing between steps. As many escalator incidents are related to the wedging of foreign objects, the MTRCL will step up its publicity efforts to educate the public on the proper use of escalators to prevent accidents.

(2) At present, the Transport and Logistics Bureau (TLB) oversees and monitors the policies on railway transport concerning the MTRCL’s operation and services. The EMSD regulates the railway system pursuant to the Mass Transit Railway Ordinance (Cap. 556). On the other hand, the TD monitors the service performance of the railway network and ensures that the MTRCL provides proper and efficient service in accordance with the Operating Agreement entered into with the Government.

     As the statutory regulator of railway safety, the EMSD inspects railway facilities or systems to ensure the MTRCL has properly conducted repair and maintenance works to enhance railway safety. In 2020 and 2021, the EMSD conducted 408 and 418 inspections respectively, exceeding the target number of inspections by about 5 per cent. As at September 2022, the EMSD conducted 372 inspections, which is nearly 90 per cent of the target of 420 inspections for the entire year.

     Regarding staffing establishment, there are six posts in the Railway Operation and Services Section of the TLB to take charge of the transport policies on railway operations and ferry services. The Railways Branch of the EMSD has 64 posts responsible for regulating the MTR system, the Tramways, the Peak Tram and the Automated People Mover at the airport. In the Railway Monitoring Division of the TD, there are nine posts regulating and monitoring MTR and tram services. Other sections of the TD are also responsible for railway-related matters, including incident co-ordination and planning of transport facilities related to new railways. As regulation of railway services is part of the regular duties of the above staff, we do not have a breakdown of the estimated expenditure in this respect.

(3) Day-to-day business of the MTRCL are managed by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and the Executive Committee comprising senior executives, who report to the Board of Directors. The CEO submits a report at each Board meeting to present matters including railway services and safety performance. The MTRCL management also presents the overall Hong Kong transport service performance to the Board each year, and where necessary, reports to the Board investigation results of major incidents. Government directors have been monitoring the operation of the MTRCL through the relevant reports, and reflecting views on matters relating to the management of the MTRCL, operation and repair and maintenance issues from time to time to ensure that the MTRCL's governance and strategies are up-to-date and responsive to public expectations.

     On the other hand, the Government's monitoring of the MTRCL is not confined to the Board level. As mentioned above, relevant government departments have been closely monitoring the performance of the MTRCL on railway operation and maintenance through various platforms, the reports submitted by the MTRCL as well as on-site inspections. These efforts ensure that the duties performed and services provided by the MTRCL meet the Government's regulatory requirements to keep up the provision of safe, reliable and efficient railway services to the public.

     Thank you, President.
Ends/Wednesday, November 30, 2022
Issued at HKT 15:20
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