Hong Kong’s MTR Corporation has been urged to review inspection work of advertisement panels after some loose parts caused a set of train doors to fall off, plunging the city into rush hour chaos on Thursday.

Part of the Island Line of Hong Kong’s metro network saw serious disruptions on Thursday evening, with train services between Wan Chai and Quarry Bay station were suspended at around 6.15 pm for close to three hours. It came after a pair of doors on a train – bound for Kennedy Town – came off as it approached Causeway Bay station. No injuries were reported.

MTR door
Photo: Stand News.

The service suspension at the key stations forced commuters to scramble for other transportation during the evening peak hour, with long queues at bus stations, tram stops and taxi stands. Traffic congestion was widespread as the roads came to a standstill.

Admiralty Bus Stop
Long queues at the bus stops outside the Admiralty MTR station on December 2, 2021. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

The MTR arranged around 90 free shuttle busses to run between the affected stations to pick up passengers as train services resumed gradually at around 8.50 p.m.

According to the MTRC, the “rare incident” was caused by displaced parts on an advertisement panel that came into contact with the train doors. The railway company’s chief of operations Sammy Wong said on RTHK on Friday that the advertisement panel concerned had a “special design” that allowed for both lightbox ads and sticker ads.

travel chaos
Photo: HKIncident Group, via Facebook.

The MTR has a total of eight panels of the same design across its network in the city, including at Mong Kok, Tsim Sha Tsui and Admiralty. They were removed following the incident on Thursday night, Wong said.

MTR door
A door on an MTR train dislodged after coming into contact with loosened parts on an advertisement panel at Causeway Bay station on December 2, 2021. Photo: Daniel Cheung, via Facebook.

The railway operator said it will look into the panel design, the operation procedure of the panel and the condition of the panel. The advertisement was last changed a week ago and subcontractors were responsible for the installation and regular inspection of the panels.

The MTR’s chief of operations engineering Nelson Ng said in the same radio programme that further investigation was needed for determining the reason for the panel parts dislocation.

“This incident has nothing to with the door, and it is a very rare incident,” he said.

Admiralty Tram station
People queuing up at a tram station in Admiralty on December 2, 2021. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

The MTR representatives apologised for causing inconvenience to affected passengers and vowed to conduct a thorough probe to prevent similar incidents from happening.

Henry Cheung, chairman of the Association of Railway Transport Professionals Hong Kong said on RTHK on Thursday that the preliminary report from the MTR offered a “reasonable explanation” for the incident.

MTR door
MTR engineers inspect an advertisement panel at Causeway Bay station. Photo: Stand News.

The railway expert, who was a council member of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers, agreed with the metro operator that the incident was “not a problem with the doors.” He suspected that the some parts of the advertisement panel were not properly screwed in when it was put in place, and the vibration caused by trains entering the station prompted the loose parts to dislocate days after the installation.

“The MTR Corporation may need to thoroughly investigate whether the advertisement subcontractors had [conducted] their work thoroughly, and met the safety standards,” Cheung said.

MTR door
Loosed parts of an advertisement panel at Causeway Bay station. Photo: Stand News.

“I think the cause may involve negligence,” he added.

Similar calls were made by Michael Chan, chair of labour union Railway Power. The MTR staff said on Commercial Radio on Friday that the railway company should consider whether more frequent check-ups on advertisement panels were needed, and if locks should be added to the panels to improve the safety of the attachment.

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Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.