Multiple Suicide Incidents on the East Rail Line Raise Questions About MTR Platform Safety Measures

Reports of two individuals falling on metro tracks along the East Rail line last Sunday, October 29, 2023. The incident happened at Fanling Station and Kowloon Town Station in which both stations were without protective screen doors.

These incidents caused a suspension in train services temporarily for hundreds of passengers.

The investigation from the police found that a 67-year-old man lost his life after falling onto the track at the Fanling station, the paramedics pronounced him dead with multiple injuries when they arrived at the station. The incident was classified as suicide, and it caused a delay for almost an hour as the suspension of MTR services started at 12:45 p.m., and MTR service for the East Rail line re-started at 1:52 p.m., announced by the MTR website. The MTR also offers free shuttle buses across Sheung Shui and Tai Po stations, and drop-offs were available at Tai Wo and Fanling stations as well.

Two jump-off incidents happened along the East Rail line on October 29, 2023, and both suicidal indivudials were found dead.
Two jump-off incidents happened along the East Rail line on October 29, 2023, and both suicidal individuals were found dead.

Not long later, another incident happened to a 20-year-old female Indian student from the City University of Hong Kong, after rushing to Kwong Wah Hospital in critical condition after falling on track at Kowloon Tong at 3:45 p.m. She was certified dead later in the hospital, confirmed as a suicide case, says the police.

The MTR station also provided shuttle buses between Kowloon Tong and Sha Tin stations via Tai Wai. This was in response to the suspension of services between Mong Kok East and Tai Wai, which caused delays to hundreds of passengers. The train service then resumed at 4:48 p.m.

Installation of MTR platform doors has been progressing slowly, says Michael Tien.
Installation of MTR platform doors has been progressing slowly, says Michael Tien.

Legislator Tien Puk-sun Michael, also the former chairman of the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation, posted on a social media platform about their Kowloon West District Council meeting, they have been demanding the full East Rail line to install protection screen doors on the platform. Still, the MTR corporation said it will take 3 years to complete the installation, finishing by the end of 2025.

 The gap between platforms varies from station to station, causing a higher chance of items dropping through, especially in stations without screen gates.

“The East Rail line cross-harbour section basically did nothing for their first year, accidents and lives pile up one after one.” Said Tien. After consulting with MTR corporation, Tien raised two possible solutions.

For the first solution when nearing the platform, the speed of the train can be reduced and if something happens, we can stop the train using technology, however, doing this will affect the number of trains we can provide at a given time which hugely impacts the entire society

For the second solution, according to experience, people seeking death often walk around the trails before getting run over. Having additional staff or using technology we can identify these individuals.

This is the 5th MTR jump-off accident during the month of October, with 4 cases in particular as suicide cases, and 4 of the cases happened on the East Rail line MTR. Meanwhile, 3 suicide cases are in their 20s, and most of the cases are family disputes or mental health issues.

Students at the City University of Hong Kong (CityU) and the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CU) were interviewed, as two of the school’s nearest MTR stations are undercover protection fences.

“In the past 2 years, news about university students committing suicide has become common. I feel heavy when I see news like this. Academic stress and mental health issues are concerning” said Carmen, a social work student in CityU. “The school holds some mental health-related workshops and psychological counselling services and a bunch of suggested self-help websites on the school’s website,” she said.

“Even if the MTR installs some more protective screen doors, students who are in a bad mood or stressed can still find another place to end their lives. The most important thing is to manage their stress and help them to deal with it.” she said, “I’m not really sure, but it would be a better idea to get help from family and school. They see us more and are closer to us.” she added.

“I think it is not hard for people to find mental health services nowadays, but it is hard for them to take a step further to ‘leave’ their situation due to many reasons or personal issues,” said Dennis, a CU student from science faculty, “I think our school has started a concern group about the mental health [issues] of CU students in recent years, promotions of the counselling service or other hotline services that encourage us to talk with when we are sad. [But] you know sometimes the quality differs with different people” he added.

CityU issued a press release regarding mental health problems among University students in Hong Kong on October 21, 2023. As suicidal cases have increased among universities in Hong Kong.

“We urge all students to put their mental health as a top priority; self-harm is never a solution,” says the press release.

Students are strongly encouraged to reach out to someone they trust, and students should be heard and supported through their academic journey, and we strive to do that together.

Photo Source: William Liao

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