The CEO and projects director of the MTR Corporation have apologised for “not being sensitive enough” with reporting construction problems. They also admitted their frontline staff should have been more rigorous and halted work once issues were discovered.

At a press conference on Tuesday evening, MTRC Projects Director Philco Wong said that, for the new Exhibition Centre station, the MTRC did not report construction issues to the government in a timely manner. Wong also said MTRC frontline staff did not strictly enforce standards with contractors, and one member of MTRC staff did not follow internal reporting procedures after spotting an issue at To Kwa Wan station.

Wong said the MTRC will “seriously reflect” on the situation, but did not respond to questions over whether he would resign.

From left: General Manager Jason Wong, Projects Director Philco Wong, CEO Lincoln Leong, Corporate Affairs Director Linda So, Project Manager Neil Ng. Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

Last week, the MTRC confirmed reports that a wall at the under-construction To Kwa Wan station was “shaved thin” to fix the problem of bulging. A report was submitted to the government on Tuesday.

It also emerged last week that, during excavations for the new Exhibition Centre station in Wan Chai, inadequate supporting I-beams were installed between the diaphragm walls, leading to a risk of bending or collapse of the walls.

This came after a similar corner-cutting scandal at the MTR’s Hung Hom station expansion project was revealed at the start of June. Workers had cut steel bars at the station to make them look as if they were correctly installed.

Affected area at the Exhibition Centre station. Photo: MTRC.

All three affected MTR stations are part of the HK$97.1 billion Shatin to Central Link expansion.

Remedial measures

MTRC CEO Lincoln Leong said that the contractors have submitted proposals for rectification pending approval, adding that he expected them to bear any related costs.

Leong and Wong also said that one of MTRC’s inspectors failed to report an issue at To Kwa Wan station, and its internal disciplinary procedures had subsequently been engaged. However, MTRC representatives did not give the reason for the inspector’s omission – whether it was innocent or dishonest – and did not specify the potential outcomes of the disciplinary procedures.

Construction site of the To Kwa Wan station. Photo: MTRC screenshot/Citizen News.

Leong added that MTRC management only learned of the situation at To Kwa Wan station one to two weeks ago, and vowed to improve the company’s internal reporting mechanism.

MTRC representatives said that the construction issues have no impact on safety, and work on the Shatin-Central Link is proceeding on schedule.

Speaking at the Legislative Council on Wednesday, Secretary for Housing and Transportation Frank Chan said the government was disappointed that they only knew of the engineering problems after the media revealed them.

“If [the MTRC] told us earlier, we could have made remedies earlier, so that the public need not be so worried,” Chan said.

Holmes Chan

Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.