24 August 2005
KCRC improves West Rail earthing arrangements
 
The Chairman of the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation (KCRC) Mr. Michael Tien expressed concerns over the recent signalling incidents on West Rail. KCRC has analysed the incidents in detail and has confirmed that they were caused by lightning strikes. KCRC has therefore engaged specialists to conduct a comprehensive review of West Rail’s earthing arrangements and the network’s lightning protection system, and propose corresponding improvement measures. The review is expected to be completed early next year.
As of today, the number of West Rail signalling incidents causing a service delay of eight minutes or more was 11 in 2005. Seven of these incidents were related to problems with the signalling system’s Axle Counter. KCRC has investigated each incident in depth and has determined that most of them were related to damage to the electronic components of the Axle Counter and earthing equipment, resulting in a substantial increase in electricity voltage. Most of the incidents also occurred during inclement weather or lightning storms.
"The West Rail alignment between Tuen Mun and Nam Cheong is 30.5km in length. The track between Tuen Mun and Kam Sheung Road is elevated while the section from Tai Lam Tunnel to Nam Cheong is underground, and is therefore less affected by lightning strikes. However the elevated section, which is comparatively long and exposed to the environment, is vulnerable to lightning strikes. According to KCRC’s analysis, most Axle Counter failures have occurred on the elevated, viaduct section of West Rail. Much of Ma On Shan Rail also runs on a viaduct but there have been no similar cases on Ma On Shan Rail. KCRC believes this is because the Ma On Shan Rail viaduct is located between high-rise buildings, and is therefore significantly less likely to be struck by lightning," Mr Tien said.
Mr. Tien said the Corporation will invest about HK$10 to 20 million to improve the earthing arrangements, which will be completed before the rainy season next year. The objective is to reduce the number of West Rail signalling incidents caused by lighting strikes to a level similar to those of East Rail and Ma On Shan Rail.
Mr. Tien added that KCRC would also implement several measures to shorten the recovery period during incidents. Since the distance between West Rail stations is the longest among Hong Kong’s railways, many hardware components are located on very long sections of track, making it more time-consuming to investigate incidents and determine their cause. To tackle this, KCRC will deploy more manpower and equipment, and will restructure the hardware components of the signalling system in order to shorten the investigation time, speed up the recovery process and minimise the impact on passengers.
In addition to allocating additional manpower resources, KCRC has increased stockpiles of spare parts and components at strategic locations in order to reduce transportation time in case of incidents.
To enhance the effectiveness of information dissemination during incidents, KCRC has designated certain staff to inform the public of all service changes through the electronic media during the initial stages of incidents. In assessing the impact of service delays, KCRC will include the waiting time and the total travelling time. Since it is not feasible to estimate the exact delays for each train, KCRC will include some buffer time so that passengers will receive more accurate information and can plan their journeys accordingly.
KCRC has been proactively improving the railway services and will continue to implement appropriate measures to ensure that the operation of West Rail and all other systems are safe and reliable.