More than 20 buildings near the MTR’s To Kwa Wan station construction site have been found to have sunk. Despite acceptable limits being exceeded, construction work was not halted and residents were not notified.

The issue was raised in an internal consultant report written in June 2017 and obtained by Apple Daily. The report stated that 23 buildings had sunk beyond acceptable limits with the worst case being BMW House, which sank 62.9mm – 34 per cent over the limit.

Meanwhile, 17 overground and underground water and gas pipes have also sunk. The gas pipe next to BMW House sank 54.2mm – 29.2mm over the limit.

To Kwa Wan station sink
Affected buildings (red) and pipes (blue).

The MTR Corporation did not ask contractors to stop the construction of the station – part of the HK$97.1 billion Shatin to Central Link – and did not conduct consolidation work.

To Kwa Wan District Councillor Lam Pok said that – since 2014 – he has received around 100 requests for help from residents at ten buildings concerning cracks in their buildings. All were near the construction site of the station.

He said the MTRC never admitted responsibility for the cracks, and residents received no compensation.

Increased limits

Veteran civil engineer Ngai Hok-yan said on a Commercial Radio programme that he read the report and it showed that the MTRC had increased the acceptable limit themselves. The increase was not accepted by the government’s Buildings Department, he said.

To Kwa Wan MTR cracks

Ngai said the MTRC did not listen to the department’s advice and continued construction work. As a result, the sinking problem became more and more serious.

“Normally, the work should stop and inspections should be done,” he said. “You can’t say ‘we say it’s ok’ then it’s ok.”

Ngai said the Buildings Department had exempted the Shatin to Central Link from the Buildings Ordinance, meaning that construction work could start without the submission of design plans.

He said contractors must submit the final design plans, but the department may not be aware of details that are changed.

Gov’t intervention

The latest incident came after the government demanded the MTRC fire top engineering management following series of scandals surrounding the Shatin to Central Link.

Projects Director Philco Wong resigned and CEO Lincoln Leong applied for early retirement, which was accepted. Board Chair Frederick Ma said he resigned twice but was asked by Chief Executive Carrie Lam to stay.

YouTube video

Lam said on Wednesday night that three former top engineering officials will be appointed to the MTRC as consultants. They include Lau Ching-kwong, former head of Civil Engineering Department; Hui Siu-wai, former head of Buildings Department; and Wong Hok-ning, former head of Geotechnical Engineering Office.

“Hong Kong has been proud of the quality and quantity of its infrastructure works. This incident caused certain level of harm to the professional level of Hong Kong’s engineering works,” Lam said.

“I am determined to gain back the public’s trust in the quality and safety MTRC’s engineering works,” Lam added.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.