The supplier of the new signalling system has confirmed that there are problems in its software, the MTR Corporation has said.

Two MTR trains collided at Central station at 2.57am on Monday morning, leaving two drivers hospitalised. The incident occurred during a test run before the system opened to passengers.

MTRC Managing Director Jacob Kam said Alstom and Thales, the suppliers of the HK$3.3 billion system, conducted software tests at their Toronto lab on Monday and noted the problem after re-enacting the crash.

Photo showing a train crashed into another train on the MTR system panel. Photo: Facebook/Sam Yip.

“They confirmed their software was problematic. Of course this was preliminary and we need a detailed investigation,” he said.

He said the test run in the early hours of Monday was to confirm whether a new third safety system would work if the main and backup systems failed. The accident occurred when the third system was switched on.

Kam added that up to five experts from the supplier will come to Hong Kong to look into the case. It may take two to three months to reach a conclusion. The signal system tests will be halted in the meantime.

Jacob Kam Adi Lau
Jacob Kam and Adi Lau. Photo: RTHK Screenshot.

The MTRC Staff Union Chairman To Kwong-yan said the driver tried to stop the train from crashing into another train, but it was unsuccessful.

“The other train should have left the platform before the next train entered the platform. It should not be the case that know both trains were at the crossing. I don’t what happened with the system – it should have told us there was a train ahead,” he told RTHK.

Kam said records showed the driver tried to stop the train, but the train needed some time to completely stop. He said the speed of the train will be an area of investigation.

mtr central crash
Photo: MTRC.

MTRC Operations Director Adi Lau said that resuming normal services on the Tsuen Wan Line between Admiralty and Central will be difficult. He added that more than 100 staff members were trying to recover the service, but there was a chance that the section will remain closed on Tuesday.

Passengers have been advised to use the Island Line to switch between Admiralty and Central stations, whilst extra services were laid on to relieve the burden.

Director of Electrical and Mechanical Services Alfred Sit said the main point of the investigation will be to examine the third backup system.

He said the exact reason for the crash was uncertain yet and it was difficult to set a deadline for MTRC to submit a report.

“But what we can promise to the public is that we are going to have an independent, comprehensive and in-depth analysis to make sure the real cause to be reflected and we put all the necessary improvements in place before we put the new signal system into service,” he said.

The new signalling system is intended to allow for more trains to run on the MTR system.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.