Defective rail clamps and rusty tracks found on the Hong Kong section of the Express Rail Link have sparked fresh concerns about railroad safety.

A paper submitted by the Highways Department to the Legislative Council on Wednesday stated that the MTR Corporation, which manages the construction of the express rail, had identified the defects. It said the company had already asked contractors to replace the faulty rail clamps.

The MTRC confirmed on Thursday that its contractor had discovered around 100 defective rail clips – around 0.05 per cent of the 200,000 pieces installed. It added that the materials were produced by mainland Chinese factories, which were managed by the world’s largest rail clamp manufacturer in Germany.

The high speed rail site. Photo:

It also said that the rusting of the tracks occurred between March and April this year due to changes in weather conditions, but the company periodically takes care of the rusting and will also polish all of the tracks before operations commence.

The company said that the replacement of defective materials did not affect the overall work progress.

Safety concerns

Albert Lai Kwong-tak, an engineer and spokesperson for public policy think tank Professional Commons, told Apple Daily that there are two types of rail clamps – one is for fixing the tracks and the other is installed at railway junctions where tracks merge or cross.

He said that even a small defect could cause trains to derail or prevent them from changing tracks, which may result in crashes.

The Express Rail Link construction site in West Kowloon. File Photo: Stand News.

Lai also criticised the MTRC’s failure to ensure a satisfactory quality of construction work. “It is taxpayers who will ultimately bear the additional maintenance costs,” Lai said.

The Highways Department said that it had urged the MTRC to “implement improvement measures.”

The department’s latest report said that about 74 per cent of the 72.7km rail tracks have been laid. It also revealed that the MTRC had received 913 substantiated claims from contractors, totalling about HK$28.5 billion. The company has awarded about HK$1.925 billion to claimants, representing around 4.3 per cent of the awarded contract sum for the contracts.

Since its commencement, the express rail link’s construction project has been hit with a series of scandals involving over-budget spending, delays, and mismanagement.

Ellie Ng

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.