Hong Kong’s MTR closes half of its stations to prevent damage to facilities and reduce risks to human lives

Cannix Yau

Hong Kong’s embattled MTR Corporation on Tuesday closed half of its 94 train stations to prevent damage to its facilities and reduce risk to its passengers and the staff.

In a statement issued on Tuesday’s night, the MTR Corp strongly condemned the rampaging acts of the protesters, saying more than 20 stations had been subjected to vandalism and arson attacks during the day. The damaged equipment ranged from ticketing machines and CCTV cameras to turnstiles, while fires were started at multiple stations, including Causeway Bay, Diamond Hill and Central.

Early on Tuesday morning, MTR Corp closed three major stations – Admiralty, Wan Chai and Prince Edward – fearing vandalism by protesters who were up in arms against the government on a day marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

“The MTR emphasises that the consequence of arson attacks is very serious...We strongly condemn these unlawful acts that totally disregard the safety of passengers and MTR staff. We have reported the incident to police,” it said.

Firefighters respond to a fire at an exit of Wan Chai MTR Station. Photo: Felix Wong

Around 11am, the rail operator shut down another eight stations – including Causeway Bay, Wong Tai Sin, Sha Tin and two in Tsuen Wan – after assessing risks.

As the day progressed, it was forced to close stations one after another as protesters rampaged through its facilities at Tsim Sha Tsui, Yuen Long and some Light Rail stations.

Two full lines – Tsuen Wan and Ma On Shan – were suspended before 7pm. By 11pm, 47 out of the MTR’s 94 stations were closed.

Hong Kong Federation of Railway Trade Unions vice-chairman Tam Kin-chiu praised the rail firm for acting swiftly to safeguard the safety of the commuters and its staff.

“No frontline staff could be harmed by the protesters’ radical actions, while the damage done to the station facilities was relatively less,” he said. “We welcome the MTR Corp’s quick decision. If it hadn’t closed the stations, the consequences would have been much more serious and damaging.”

Admiralty is deserted after the station was closed on Tuesday. Photo: Winson Wong

As the damage inflicted on the rail facilities was less severe than it had been on other days of protest, Tam was confident MTR services could be fully resumed on Wednesday.

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“The damage to the Light Rail stations is more serious and it will take some time for the maintenance staff to inspect and fix the outdoor track. Still, at least 80 per cent of the Light Rail service should be normal on Wednesday,” he said.

The closure of the stations dismayed many passengers. A 68-year-old man who gave his first name only as Karl said he had to wait for around 20 minutes to get a ferry to Tsim Sha Tsui.

The staff rest quarter of a light rail line in Tuen Mun was burnt and damaged. Source: MTR Corp.

“The MTR’s shutting down of stations will not stop the protests,” Karl said, while returning home to Kowloon after taking part in the protests on Hong Kong Island.

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He said the inconvenience caused by the closure of the MTR service would not stop him from taking part in the protests either.

“Even if the Star Ferry was closed, I would have swum across the harbour,” he said.

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