The government has criticised the MTR Corporation’s delay in reporting a series of construction problems on its Sha Tin to Central Link project as “unacceptable.”

Hong Kong’s railway giant has been grappling with a series of engineering scandals revealed by the media over the past month.

The four scandals included three corner-cutting incidents at the Hung Hom, To Kwa Wan and Exhibition Centre stations, where steel bars of support walls were cut shortsupport walls were “shaved thin,” and inadequate supporting I-beams were installed respectively. Another scandal at the Exhibition Centre station involved an engineering mistake where two support walls were built in an incorrect direction.

frank chan
Frank Chan.

“The government has always been very concerned about the safety and quality of construction; we followed up immediately with the MTRC after we found out about the construction problems at the Sha Tin to Central Link – we requested that the MTRC submit a report and propose measures to fix it,” Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan said at a special Legislative Council subcommittee meeting on Friday.

“As for the MTRC’s construction problems appearing consecutively, and not reporting them in time to the government, this behaviour is unacceptable.”

The railways subcommittee meeting was called to discuss the construction problems at To Kwa Wan Station and Exhibition Centre Station.

Problems at Hung Hom station will be discussed next Friday, and representatives from contractors Leighton Asia and China Technology Corporation will be invited to attend, subcommittee chair Michael Tien said at the meeting.

The Transport Bureau and the Highways Department said in a LegCo document that it was “completely unacceptable to the government” that it was not notified in time regarding the issues with the Hung Hom platform, the support walls at To Kwa Wan, and the issues at the Exhibition Centre.

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Frederick Ma leaves the chamber amid a protest by lawmaker Gary Fan.

MTRC representatives said contractor Leighton Asia was asked to attend but did not do so as they were working on a report for the government due on July 16.

Lawmaker Claudia Mo expressed strong dissatisfaction at Chan’s comments during the meeting.

“You continue to condemn the MTRC, but you’re sitting on its Board of Directors, do you not bear even a bit of responsibility? Do you not have a means to hold them accountable, and do you not even have to consider stepping down?”

In response, Chan said that when the independent committee set up to investigate the matter reaches a conclusion, “society and everyone will have a judgment.”

MTRC Chair Frederick Ma said that the matter showed that there were deficiencies in the company’s notification mechanism and procedures, and that the company would report any future violation of rules on the part of contractors to the authorities. “MTRC is very very concerned about public safety,” he said.

MTR Projects Director Philco Wong Nai-keung apologised for not reporting the incidents to the government in a timely manner and for inadequacies in monitoring, and vowed to improve.

catherine lai

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.