Hong Kong’s struggling railway operator has appealed to protesters to end their violence at train stations, warning that transport services could be crippled if they continued their destruction.
Adi Lau Tin-shing, director of operations for the MTR Corporation, issued the plea on Friday, saying that 83 out of 94 rail stations, or nearly 90 per cent, had been damaged by protesters, while 42 of the city’s 68 light rail stations had also been vandalised. He cited damage caused by petrol bombs thrown into stations and fires set at entrances, as well as the wanton destruction of equipment and facilities.
“The most worrying part is that the amount of equipment being damaged has been escalating. These acts have severely endangered the safety of passengers as well as our staff,” Lau said.
“We would like to appeal to the protesters that if you want to continue to have the MTR service, which most of the Hong Kong people need, these malicious acts have to stop.”
He warned that if the protesters continued to damage MTR stations, some locations might need to be closed for repairs. Lau said the damage to MTR stations across the city included 800 turnstiles, 500 ticketing and Octopus add-value machines, 400 Octopus machines at light rail stations, 700 CCTV cameras and 12 elevators.
He said some stations could not keep pace with the ongoing destruction, but added that the company had placed orders for new components and parts that would arrive next month.
“Just over the past few days one-third of our station facilities have been damaged. If this kind of damage continues, some station entrances cannot be used. Actually, some stations can’t be opened the next day,” he said. “This is the last thing we want to see.”
The rail giant closed three stations on Thursday – Kwun Tong, Ngau Tau Kok and Tai Po – because of vandalism and nearby disturbances.
Allen Ting, MTR’s south region head of operations, said employees were doing their best to repair the damage but spare parts were running thin.
“Some turnstiles were seriously damaged so we have staff holding a mobile device for passengers to swipe their Octopus cards. We hope to provide at least minimal service at every station,” he said.
The rail operator faces mounting public scrutiny for closing half of its 94 stations on Tuesday in a move it said was to prevent damage to its facilities and reduce risk to passengers and staff.
Some stations were closed to thwart potential attacks by protesters determined to tarnish National Day celebrations. By Tuesday night, more than 20 stations had been vandalised or targeted by arson attacks.