Home Business MTR to Suspend Service on Major Lines for Overdue Equipment Upgrades

MTR to Suspend Service on Major Lines for Overdue Equipment Upgrades

MTR train 01

HONG KONG – Hong Kong’s rail operator is bracing for unprecedented service disruptions as it embarks on a multi-billion dollar overhaul to replace decades-old equipment along two of its oldest and most heavily utilized lines.

[Update] The MTR Corporation management confirmed on Wednesday that Kwun Tong Line stations from Prince Edward to Ho Man Tin will not provide train services for one full day on July 28 to renew the cable rack.

For the first time in its 45-year history, the MTR Corporation plans to completely suspend train service on sections of the Kwun Tong and Tsuen Wan lines for up to two consecutive days at a time to facilitate the massive upgrade project.

The upheaval stems from an internal review last year that uncovered alarming signs of deterioration in equipment and infrastructure inside the tunnels of about 10 stations along the two lines, some of which has not been replaced since the routes opened in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

“These are time bombs, as cables or equipment could fall from the ceiling of the tunnel,” warned lawmaker Michael Tien, a former chairman of the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation, after being briefed by MTR management.

Among the interchanges expected to face closures are major hubs like Prince Edward, Yau Ma Tei and Mong Kok on the Tsuen Wan line, and Whampoa on the Kwun Tong route. The MTR says shuttle buses will be provided, though questions remain about having sufficient vehicles to handle the passenger loads.

The estimated HK$65 billion (US$8.3 billion) asset renewal plan comes on the heels of two serious incidents in 2022 that raised safety concerns – a mechanical failure that stranded 1,500 passengers in a tunnel, and a train derailment after striking a dislodged fence.

While lawmakers back the overdue upgrades, they warn of major inconveniences ahead for Hong Kong’s commuters as the work is carried out over the next five years, likely during quieter periods like summer Sundays.

“It is a challenge whether the MTR Corporation has sufficient shuttle buses to cope with passengers,” said Tien.

The company is expected to unveil its strategy for the disruptive project as soon as Wednesday.