The Transport and Housing Bureau (THB) has said that the MTR Corporation will be fined HK$2 million for a 10-hour-long disruption that caused service delays on the Kwun Tong Line in early August.

On August 5, signalling problems plagued the data transmission system between Ngau Tau Kok and Lam Tin station. For safety reasons, the operation control centre arranged for trains to reduce speed while it investigated the incident. From approximately 2:30pm, Kwun Tong line trains ran every five minutes, only returning to normal service at 9:35pm. A free shuttle bus service was provided to passengers during the disruption period in order to minimise the impact on their journeys.

Responding to a letter from the Legislative Council on Thursday, the bureau said that the MTR maintained a limited service on the Kwun Tong Line on August 5.  An MTR spokesperson told HKFP that the train experiencing the most severe signalling problems was delayed by 83 minutes.

The incident happened between Kwun Tong station and Ngau Tau Kok station. Photo: Wikicommons.

The spokesperson said that the MTR Corporation had already formed a high-level task force with independent experts to investigate the service outage.

In a statement, the Democratic Party said that the fined amount was lower than many had previously expected.

Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting said that the disruptions lasted for a total of ten hours, affecting tens of thousands of passengers. He said that the current fining mechanism, which compares the duration of the longest delayed journey with the duration of a regular journey, does not reflect the seriousness of the incident.

Lam Cheuk-ting. File photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

“This fine shows the problems with the fining mechanism. A more reasonable method would be to add the entire duration of the disruption to the mechanism as a necessary factor to consider,” he said.

Lam said that he would write to the Transport and Housing Department and the MTR Corporation to request a consultation on a “Service Performance Arrangement” mechanism, which would allow for a more objective means of calculating and determining the amount to be fined per incident. He also said that he would approach the two bodies to follow up on the delays experienced on August 5.

The Kwun Tong line’s signalling system was built in 1989 along with the Eastern Harbour Crossing, and has been in use for more than two decades. The system was designed for up to 30 years of use. MTRC Chief Executive Officer Lincoln Leong told reporters on August 6 that the MTR will spend HK$33 billion to update underground train systems in coming years, including those on the Kwun Tong line.

Jun Pang

Jun Pang is an independent writer and researcher. She has previously worked in NGOs advocating for refugees' and migrants' rights in Asia and Europe.