A dislocated metal barrier on the track was the cause of the derailment of an MTR train in Yau Ma Tei last Sunday, resulting in two sets of train doors falling off and sending passengers scrambling to evacuate, an MTR Corporation (MTRC) executive has said.

Yau Ma Tei MTR
Two pairs of doors fell off on a train at Yau Ma Tei MTR station on November 13, 2022. Photo: Internet.

Tony Lee, operations director of the city’s sole train services provider, said on Wednesday the company had completed its preliminary investigation into the incident and submitted a report to the government. A more detailed probe is ongoing.

“We identified that that metal barrier was found dislocated, dislodged… it came across – encountered with the train – and [led to] the incident,” Lee said.

He said the metal barrier was 7 metres long and 2.4 metres high.

Lee said the continuing investigation would cover the barrier’s mounting integrity, maintenance, and wear and tear. The company would “also look into the original design intent to find out the exact root cause of the incident and take appropriate action,” Lee said.

The MTRC had inspected more than 30 similar installations along tracks after the incident, Lee added.

tony lee MTR
MTRC Operations Director Tony Lee. Photo: Screenshot, via RTHK.

On Sunday morning, a Central-bound Tsuen Wan Line train derailed when arriving at Yau Ma Tei station, causing two pairs of train doors facing the platform to fall off. Train services were suspended for the rest of Sunday and only resumed the next morning.

Around 150 passengers left the train via an emergency exit and walked along the track towards Mong Kok station while around 600 left via the platform at Yau Ma Tei.

‘Undesirable’ experience

During Wednesday’s press conference, which lasted less than 20 minutes, Lee also addressed the issue of evacuation. He said having people walking on train tracks was “totally undesirable,” adding the original plan for evacuation was to have all of them leave via the Yau Ma Tei station platform.

A public broadcast “may have given the passengers an impression that they need to leave via the emergency exit,” Lee said.

Evacuation along the track poses dangers because of other running trains.

Photo: GovHK.

Lee said the train captain should have received an alert when the emergency exit door was opened, but that did not happen. That the emergency exit was in use was spotted by ground staff “several minutes later” and the control centre then alerted other trains to halt their trips.

mtr yau ma tei door derail
Photo: GovHK.

Workers also made sure everyone had left the track before resuming other train services, Lee said. The MTRC will look into ways to improve “the content of public broadcast” to avoid confusing message in the future, he added.

Lee did not answer a question on whether the MTRC would compensate the affected passengers.

Investigation report

Lee said a task force comprised of overseas and local experts had been set up to investigate the incident, with a report expected to be completed in two months. The MTRC will also conduct a “large-scale and thorough” inspection of devices and installations along the train track in the next six months.

There will be training for train captains and control centre staff on how to handle emergencies, while the company looks into using technology to have real-time and closer monitoring of situations at stations.

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Almond Li is a Hong Kong-based journalist who previously worked for Reuters and Happs TV as a freelancer, and as a reporter at Hong Kong International Business Channel, Citizen News and Commercial Radio Hong Kong. She earned her Masters in Journalism at the University of Southern California. She has an interest in LGBT+, mental health and environmental issues.