Hong Kong’s government will work closely with the MTR Corporation (MTRC) to restore public confidence in its services following a train collision on Monday morning, Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said.

“The government will perform its role in monitoring, regulating, but in a way also trying to work with [the MTRC] in concert so that we can together help to sustain the good performance of the MTRC that has been serving the community so well over the past 40 years,” Lam told reporters at a regular press briefing on Tuesday.

Carrie Lam
Carrie Lam. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

Two MTR trains collided at Central station at 2.57am on Monday, leaving two drivers hospitalised. The incident occurred during a signalling test run before the system had opened to passengers. The new HK$3.3 billion signalling system is designed to allow more trains to run on the MTR system.

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MTRC Operation Director Adi Lau said on Tuesday morning that engineering staff had separated the two trains which collided in the tunnel near Central. However, since the crash site was narrow, staff are unable to use large machines to remove the trains and have had to move parts by hand. Passengers travelling between Central and Admiralty stations are still being forced to use the Island Line instead of the Tseun Wan line, and extra staff have been deployed to relieve the burden on services.

“It took much more time than expected,” Lau said.

Lau said the MTRC only has up to three hours to conduct recovery work every night, whilst the system is closed to passengers and will discuss ways to improve its signalling system with suppliers. He added that the corporation does not have a timetable for when the work will be completed.

mtr central crash
Photo: MTRC.

MTRC Managing Director Jacob Kam told reporters on Monday that five experts from the signalling system supplier will come to Hong Kong to examine the case, but that the investigation may take two to three months.

Signal system tests have been halted in the meantime.

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

Lam said that the results of an investigation into the collision have not been released yet: “Fortunately, it was still the testing of the new signal system which has yet to be put in place, so if problems did arise in the testing, then we still have this opportunity and time to rectify before putting it in service.”

She added that public safety remains a primary concern and that the new signalling system will not be implemented until its safety has been assured.

MTRC has faced increasing public scrutiny after engineering problems at the expansion project for the HK$97.1 billion Shatin to Central Link were exposed by media last May.

Jennifer Creery is a Hong Kong-born British journalist, interested in minority rights and urban planning. She holds a BA in English at King's College London and has studied Mandarin at National Taiwan University.