港铁故障，一宗都嫌多。政府应当就港铁管理、本港公共交通政策作深入思考，準确定位，加强对港铁问责，切忌头痛医头、脚痛医脚。否则，类似故障恐怕会陆续有来。 （标题为编辑所加） （摘录自香港文汇报社评 17-10-2018）
MTR should upgrade the signalling system to solve the risk of breakdowns
【译文】An unprecedented MTR service disruption brought total chaos to the city's traffic on October 16. Commuters were left stranded as four rail lines broke down at the same time during the morning rush hour. The public have worn out of patience as MTR service breakdowns have become more and more frequent in recent years, with ageing signalling systems believed to be the main culprit. The MTR must identify the root cause as soon as possible, and take measures to hasten upgrading of the signalling systems, so as to rectify the current situation. At the same time, the government should consider to open up the local public transport market gradually, so that the MTR's service could be improved under competition.
The scale of the October 16 transport incident is unprecedented, as the Tsuen Wan, Kwun Tong, Island and Tseung Kwan O lines, all broke down nearly at the same time. Accounting for over 40 per cent of Hong Kong's public transport patronage, the MTR is the largest passenger carrying mode in Hong Kong. The MTR service breakdown has forced a substantial number of commuters to suddenly switch to other means of transport, thus causing a chain effect which also brought down bus, taxi and even tram services. Traffic in Hong Kong was well-nigh paralysed on October 16 morning.
The MTR has stressed that the service disruption was so rare and unprecedented that they have never encountered this situation since it came into operation in 1990s, and that even its design and maintenance handbook has not mentioned such a scenario. In-depth investigation for the root-cause did not begin until the end of MTR service hours. The simultaneous breakdown of major rail lines revealed that the MTR did not have full grasp on its operations, and exposed the railway giant's lack of awareness and preparation for major service emergencies.
Service disruptions have become increasingly frequent over recent years, and of all the causes, signalling system failure is the most aggravated and common one. Many of the MTR lines have been in operation for years, especially the Kwun Tong Line and Tsuen Wan Line. Their signalling systems have long been ageing and are very susceptible to failures.
However, the pace of the MTR's signalling system upgrade remains slow, and the last rail line's upgrade will not be completed until 2026. In the coming few years, passengers will still have to endure the pain and frustration brought by frequent breakdowns. The utter chaos on that day could come back to haunt us at any time, and the public cannot accept this.
The MTR said that it would set up a panel to investigate the incident, yet the public is concerned not only with a single incident. The public demand an answer to the frequent breakdowns. What are the underlying causes? Is the MTR capable of resolving the problems once and for all? The MTR must deliver a clear explanation.
To meet the public's expectations, MTR services should have been more reliable and efficient, given that Hong Kong is so much more dependent on its railway networks than other cities. Considering that competition stimulates innovation and progress, the government should introduce measures to bring more choices to commuters. By doing so, the likelihood of a paralysed traffic due to MTR breakdowns could also be minimised.
First, railway services are not bound to be provided by the same operator. Considering how the MTR Corporation operates subway services in Beijing, Shenzhen and Hangzhou, is it possible to let foreign operators run some of Hong Kong's rail lines? With another service provider to learn from and compete against, the MTR would be prompted to step up the quality of its service.
At the same time, any room for improvement in MTR services would become more apparent to the public's eye through comparison. Second, the MTR's competition with other modes of public transport should be encouraged. By opening up market space for buses and minibuses, commuters could benefit from the healthy competition created between different transport means.
MTR breakdowns must not be tolerated. The government should review the current public transport policies and step up supervision on the MTR. Superficial measures must be avoided. Otherwise, similar incidents may come one after another.■Jeffrey Tse (email@example.com)
2. root cause
3. chain effect