Hong Kong lawmakers have demanded that the MTR Corporation (MTRC) step up inspections after connecting parts between two train carriages malfunctioned on Monday morning. The incident forced around 1,500 commuters to evacuate through a dark tunnel to a station platform.

Tseung Kwan O MTR dark train
Commuters walk through a dark train after it stopped near Tseung Kwan O MTR station on Dec. 5, 2022. Photo: Erena Kwung, via Facebook.

The train, travelling along the Tseung Kwan O line, was pulling into Tseung Kwan O station when a mechanical failure involving the connections between the sixth and seventh carriages triggered a safety device at around 8:30 a.m.

“The train immediately stopped and an alert was sent,” MTRC Chief of Operations Engineering Nelson Ng told reporters after the incident. “The train did not derail.”

Tseung Kwan O MTR station tunnel
Commuters walk through a railway tunnel after a train stopped near Tseung Kwan O MTR station on Dec. 5, 2022. Photo: Gary Cheung, via Facebook.

Photos on social media showed commuters, directed by MTR staff and firefighters who arrived on the scene, walking along the railway tunnel to the Tseung Kwan O station platform.

Two female commuters – one of whom was pregnant – felt unwell and were brought to Tseung Kwan O Hospital in a stable condition.

Tseung Kwan O MTR station tunnel
Commuters walk through a railway tunnel after a train stopped near Tseung Kwan O MTR station on Dec. 5, 2022. Photo: Terry Wong, via Facebook.

The incident marked the second MTR mishap in three weeks. In mid-November, two sets of train doors fell off as the train was approaching Yau Ma Tei station, sending passengers scrambling to evacuate.

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.

Train services were partially suspended along the Tsuen Wan line for around 15 hours.

MTRC ‘should be accountable’

Lawmakers arrived at Tseung Kwan O station in the aftermath of the incident, expressing disappointment and demanding the railway operator enhance checks to prevent future accidents.

In a live Facebook video, legislative councillor Gary Cheung held up a picture taken by a commuter who was standing near the site of the mechanical failure. Parts of the train floor, normally hidden under the connecting panels, were revealed as a result of the incident.

“We call this a train division, where the carriages are split apart,” Cheung said. “Anyone can imagine that, if it were more serious and [the parts] did snap off, commuters could have fallen through.”

Stanley Li, also a lawmaker, said the MTRC should check whether there were any abnormalities in the condition of the tracks where the incident happened: “What is the reason for the connector malfunctioning? Was it the wear and tear on the equipment, the wear and tear on the coupling?” Li asked.

He called on the company to review their routine checking procedures and look into the quality and comprehensiveness of the inspections.

Stanley Li
Lawmaker Stanley Li. Photo: Peter Lee/HKFP.

“I hope the MTR can learn its lesson and make improvements,” Li said, adding that everyone at the railway company – from the frontline staff to top management – should be held accountable.

Gradual resumption of services

Train services on the Tseung Kwan O line were partially halted on Monday morning as staff removed the train and brought it to an MTR depot.

The MTR arranged shuttle bus services to take commuters between Tiu Keng Leng and Po Lam stations, as well as between Tiu Keng Leng and LOHAS Park stations.

Normal train services gradually resumed from around 12:30 p.m., MTR operations chief Sammy Wong said, adding that he was apologetic about the inconvenience caused to commuters.

Asked by a reporter what caused the malfunction, Wong said the priority had been to remove the train and restart train services as soon as possible.

“We focused our efforts on bringing the train to the depot… we will comprehensively inspect the situation [there],” he said.

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Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.