Months after protesters damaged MTR facilities during citywide unrest, dozens of service machines continue to await repair due to coronavirus-related delays in delivering spare parts, according to the rail operator.

The MTR Corporation became the target of widespread vandalism last year after transporting police officers during closures and halting train services around marches, leaving protesters stranded.

Photo: May James/HKFP.

By the end of last year, 85 out of 93 MTR stations and 62 out of 68 Light Rail stops had been vandalised, according to the transit firm. Additionally, entry and exit gates were damaged more than 1,900 times, ticket-issuing machines and add-value machines 1,100 times, surveillance cameras 1,200 times, escalators nearly 120 times, lifts 80 times and entrance roller shutters 220 times, it estimated.

However, last October, the MTR was criticised over labelling functional machines as “Not in use because of vandalism.” Footage on social media showed add-value machines accepting cash top-ups for Octopus travel cards, despite signs indicating the machine was unusable due to protester damage.

In a response issued the same month, a spokesperson for the rail operator told HKFP that some parts had been harvested from functional machines to replace damaged ones in vandalised machines in order to maintain a baseline level of operation across all stations.

“The maintenance team has suspended the operation of some intact equipment in some stations in order to take out spare parts and deploy them to other stations whose facilities are damaged more seriously, in order to maintain a basic and limited level of service to passengers at those stations as far as practicable,” they said.

“The Corporation has ordered new spare parts but it will take some time for all of them to be delivered.”

‘Uncertainties’ in production and delivery

A spokesperson told HKFP on Wednesday the rail operator does not keep statistics on the number of machines currently out of service.

Kennedy Town MTR station (left) and Tung Chung MTR station (right) in April, 2020. Photo: Supplied.

“The progress of the recovery works has encountered challenges as a large number of station facilities were vandalised, and the production and delivery of spare parts has been affected by the Covid-19 outbreak. Nevertheless, we are continuing to repair the facilities,” they said.

“Where there are still uncertainties in the production and delivery of spare parts in the coming few months, we will review and adjust the works programme as necessary with the aim of completing the remaining repair works progressively.”

Hong Kong has recorded 1,036 cases of coronavirus infections since January. First detected in Hubei province, China, Covid-19 has infected more than 2.6 million people and led to more than 183,000 deaths worldwide, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

Jennifer Creery

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.