A small company in the Bernese countryside has been chosen to make travelling safer for the 2.5 million passengers who use Hong Kong's underground train system each day.This content was published on July 10, 2000 - 15:15
During the next six years, the Kaba Gilgen firm of Schwarzenburg is going to equip all 30 underground stations of the island's Mass Transit Railway Corporation with 2,960 platform screen doors.
These sophisticated automatic doors are part of a glass wall, which runs along the edge of the platform, preventing access to the railway line. They are placed at the same intervals as the doors of the carriages and open simultaneously once a train comes to a standstill.
The glass walls make it impossible for anyone to fall on to the tracks and they also protect waiting passengers from dust-laden air pressure waves caused by arriving trains.
"No passenger can leave the platform towards the track, and no passenger can fall on to the track, and that's one of the major advantages of a platform screen door system," says project director Hans Krähenbühl.
Another advantage is that stations can be isolated from the tunnels, making air-conditioning more effective. This is a major advantage in sub-tropical and tropical countries, where platform screen doors have become the norm in new subway construction projects.
The Hong Kong contract, which is worth about SFr120 million, will create 20 new jobs in Switzerland.
"Our responsibility is to design, manufacture and install these doors. What makes this project different is that the doors are being installed in existing stations," says Krähenbühl. Hong Kong's underground is the first system in the world to kit out existing stations with such doors.
One major challenge will be to install the doors without disrupting the rail services. Under the deal, the system must be able to operate normally while construction is underway.
"The challenge is to install the doors during the non-traffic hours between two and five o'clock in the morning. After installation every night, nothing will be left on the platform that could cause a safety hazard," says Krähenbühl.
"Each platform has a length of 180 metres, each has 40 sets of doors and the total length of the whole contract is 13.5 kilometres - that's almost the width of Hong Kong island," he adds.
by Rob Brookes