Hong Kong’s metro suffered delays due to a rare, simultaneous signaling glitch on three of its major lines, causing chaos at stations and inconveniencing thousands of commuters in the morning rush hour.
The Asian financial hub’s rail operator, MTR Corp, said the three lines had to be operated manually early yesterday, slowing down trains and extending journey times by as much as 40 minutes.
MTR Director of Operations Lau Tin-shing told reporters that such a move reduces the frequency of trains to once every 12 to 15 minutes.
“It only provides around 20 to 30 percent of the services we normally provide during peak hours,” Lau said, apologizing to the public.
The metro is the backbone of the territory’s transportation, carrying an average of about 5.8 million passengers on a weekday, according to the company’s Web site.
The delays resulted in packed trains, forcing commuters to look for buses and taxis.
Singapore, another Asian city known for its efficient public transport services, received a knock in August last year when faulty signaling resulted in disruptions.
The Island, Kwun Tong and Tsuen Wan lines were affected on yesterday. At some stations, the operator halted escalators to curb further inflow of passengers onto crowded platforms, as people waited for more than 30 minutes with umbrellas in hands and hunched over their smartphones.
Under an agreement between MTR and the Hong Kong Government, the operator needs to pay a fine if there are delays of more than 31 minutes.
A 10-hour service disruption on the Kwun Tong line last year, again the result of a signaling fault, led to a HK$2 million (US$255,225) penalty.
The government is MTR’s biggest shareholder.
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