“Serious corrosion” of parts of a barrier that a train collided with at Yau Ma Tei MTR station was to blame for a derailment incident last November, an investigation has concluded.

Photo: GovHK.

According to results of the investigation published on Thursday, the barrier was unstable due to corrosion of its nuts and bolts, causing it to lean over and intrude “into the train path.”

The findings came two months after the derailment, which saw two train doors to dislodge as the train entered Yau Ma Tei station. Around 750 passengers were evacuated, with some 150 having to walk along the tracks to Mong Kok station.

Train services between Lai King and Jordan stations were suspended for 15 hours. The Yau Ma Tei station incident happened less than a year after a pair of doors on a train bound for Kennedy Town came off as it approached Causeway Bay station in December 2021, and weeks before a train fault on the MTR’s Tseung Kwan O line forced around 1,500 commuters to evacuate through a dark tunnel.

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.

Lawmakers have demanded that the MTR Corporation enhance checks to prevent future accidents.

‘No specific maintenance instruction’

The metallic barrier that dislocated was an “independent structure” mounted on the ground and was “not directly connected to normal train operation,” according to the MTR Corporation’s press release on the investigation’s findings.

Designed in 1978, the barrier was meant to “guard against any off-the-rail train from entering the niches in the tunnel.”

There was “no specific maintenance instruction to staff for inspection of the barriers,” the railway company said.

Photo: GovHK.

Inspections also revealed “considerable water seepage” along the tunnel walls near the incident site. While the water seepage had been identified by staff, and action had been taken to address it, there was no specific report made on the impact of the water on the barrier.

In addition, there was a “rich amount” of chloride in the water, samples tested showed, which together with high electrical conductivity would have caused accelerated rates of corrosion.

Safety ‘of utmost importance’

The MTR Corporation said there are almost 60 metal protection barriers in the network similar to the one involved in the Yau Ma Tei station, all of which would be upgraded or replaced by May 2025.

“Corrosive symptoms” have been found in some of the barriers and have already been dismantled.

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

The railway company has also completed training for staff on “effective handling of detrainment.”

“Safety has always been of utmost importance to MTR and we have always adhered to internationally recognised standard,” Tony Lee, Operations Director of MTR Corporation, said.

“In the wake of the recent incidents, the Corporation is conducting the comprehensive reviews on our asset management and maintenance regime… to reassume that we maintain the highest safety standard.”

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Hillary Leung

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.