13 April 2012

The MTR (Mass Transit Railway) is Hong Kong’s extremely reliable, fast, clean and efficient metro railway system. It moves a huge amount of people every day and even with trains departing every minute it is not uncommon for each carriage to be packed full of commuters.

The problem is that when there is even a slight glitch, the system backs up very quickly. In just a few minutes, an entire station can be brought to its knees. The MTR is generally very reliable so it’s not something that is seen very often. In the UK you can blame the train for being late, but in Hong Kong no one would even dare try that excuse - no one would believe it!

When it does go wrong though as it did this morning, things are quite noticeable. Today, the Tsuen Wan line which connects Kowloon to Hong Kong Island was running happily and depositing nearly a full train’s worth of people at Admiralty so they could change to the Island Line. Unfortunately, the Island Line had failed causing people to back up.

I arrived just after it happened. With the Island Line dead and the Tsuen Wan Line depositing new people every minute or so, things were getting somewhat tense. In fact the staff started shutting down entrances in Admiralty for public safety due to the crowds building on the platform.

I took a couple short videos of the mayhem here:



These videos go to show that even a well designed reliable system can go wrong and when it does it is important to have fail safes in place (such as stopping incoming trains and restricting entry in the station itself). Still, if I was in London I wouldn’t be terribly surprised but because everyone here is so used to the MTR being perfectly okay, we only notice it when it goes wrong.

On the bright side I ended up walking the rest of the way to work, so I got a decent bit of morning exercise which is never a bad thing!

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