12 January 2006
Investigation into KCRC train incident
 
KCRC today completed a preliminary investigation about an incident involving an East Rail train's underframe component that happened on 21 December 2005 and submitted a report to the Management Board.
On 21 December last year, the warning light inside the driving cab of a southbound East Rail train heading for Fo Tan Station was lit, denoting failure of train equipment. At the same time, a staff member also detected noise from the underframe of the train. The Control Centre was immediately informed. Arrangements were made to alight all passengers at Fo Tan Station. Other East Rail train services were not affected.
KCRC immediately arranged engineering staff to conduct an on-site examination. It was found that a compressor under one of the train compartments was partially loose. It was however believed that the compressor had hit other underframe equipment thus generating the noise. The train was arranged to return to the depot for further inspection. Meanwhile KCRC, in accordance with standard safety procedures, immediately initiated a detailed examination of the compressor on all trains and discovered cracks on the compressor welding part. At the same time, KCRC informed the Hong Kong Railway Inspectorate. The Inspectorate expressed concern over the incident and indicated that they would like to have more information about the incident and requested for a report. The KCRC said it had replaced or repaired the compressors in question within two days. In order to reinforce the integrity of the compressor, a metal cradle was added to all compressors.
KCRC subsequently conducted preliminary examination of other equipment which was completed within seven days. The examination also revealed that only a small number of the examined equipment were faulty, the majority of which only had minor cracks and would not cause immediate danger to train operation or passenger safety. At the same time, KCRC adopted a more precise method for the examination which will be completed by 20 January. In order to ensure integrity of the equipment, KCRC is installing nylon belts to support all major equipment, including those with no cracks found. The nylon belts, which are for industrial use, can support three times the weight of the equipment.
In summary, KCRC has adopted a series of mitigation measures since 23 December last year, which includes:
Commission an independent laboratory to investigate into the root cause of the compressor cracked welding issue;
Perform fleet-wise non-destructive testing on major underframe equipment;
Conduct hammering test and visual inspection for major underframe equipment every 48 hours; and
Add nylon belts to reinforce all major underframe equipment. The integritiy of the equipment and nylon belts will be inspected every 48 hours.
 
KCRC has immediately contacted and requested the train manufacturer to provide solutions to the defect and suggest means to ensure safety of the components. KCRC has also commissioned an Independent Review Panel to further review and make recommendations on the mitigation measures adopted by KCRC. The Panel has evaluated and confirmed the reliability of the nylon belts that can firmly secure the equipment. So long as inspection is carried out every 48 hours, there will be no immediate problem.
The Independent Review Panel comprises Mr Edmund KH Leung, former Chairman of the Hong Kong Institute of Engineers, two professors from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, a professor from the University of Hong Kong, and an engineering consultant.
The Railway Inspectorate inspected the maintenance centre on 10 January. KCRC also reported the latest investigation results and remedial measures that have been undertaken to the Railway Inspectorate.
KCRC Managing Board held a special meeting yesterday to receive a report by the management and accepted the assessment results submitted by the Independent Review Panel and train manufacturer. The Board concluded that the East Rail fleet was safe and could continue to operate.
According to the Independent Review Panel, "As all our recommendations have been accepted by KCRC, we are now satisfied and feel comfortable that KCRC has taken all necessary interim precautions to provide a safe train service to the general public of Hong Kong."
The train manufacturer also guaranteed that with the safety mitigations in place, they are satisfied that the present risk level is acceptable.
The Chairman of KCRC, Mr Michael Tien, and Managing Board members expressed concern over the incident. Mr Tien opined that the said mitigation measures would ensure a safe train operation but appreciated that addition of nylon belts was a temporary measure. KCRC will therefore add metal cradle for all the major equipment with minor cracks in order to further enhance its integrity. This mitigation measure will be completed by 26 January.
KCRC will investigate into the root cause of the problem jointly with the Independent Review Panel and the car manufacturer. The investigation methods to be adopted include conducting vehicle vibration/stress measurement; performing track measurement to monitor track conditions particularly relating to wheel/rail performance. The target date to complete the investigation is end January, 2006.
For enquiries regarding services, passengers can call the KCRC hotline at 2929 3399.