The government has demanded the MTR Corporation crack open part of the platform at the Hung Hom station expansion to investigate the corner-cutting scandal at the construction site.

A series of reports since May had exposed multiple scandals at the HK$97.1 billion Shatin to Central Link project. At Hung Hom station, workers cut steel bars instead of correctly screwing them into the couplers connecting the platform wall and the floor, causing potential structural issues.

The government had been reluctant to crack open the concrete at the station, but changed its position on Thursday.

Workers installing steel bars that were cut short to the wall of the Hung Hom station.

In August, the government appointed three former top engineering officials as MTRC consultants. They include Lau Ching-kwong, former head of the Civil Engineering Department; Hui Siu-wai, former head of the Buildings Department; and Wong Hok-ning, former head of the Geotechnical Engineering Office.

A Transport and Housing Bureau spokesperson said on Thursday that it has been meeting with the three consultants, relevant government departments and the MTRC to discuss the handling of the issue.

The spokesperson said the government has demanded that the MTRC form a full and comprehensive strategy to ascertain the situation at the Hung Hom station expansion.

Photo: Screenshot.

Methods include checking records, cracking open the parts connecting the platforms and supporting walls for inspection, as well as conducting non-intrusive tests and load tests.

The Bureau said the MTRC agreed to submit suggestions as soon as possible. The consultants were drafting the first interim report, which is expected to be completed this month.

Lawmaker Michael Tien, who chairs the Subcommittee on Matters Relating to Railways, said he understood that the inspection cannot affect the structural safety of the platforms. The only way to conduct the examination safely will be to crack open the surface and bottom of the concrete, in addition to using ultrasound detectors, he said.

Michael Tien. Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

He said that it may take three months to reinforce the structure if 20 per cent of the steel bars were cut, and the process may take six months to a year if 30 to 40 per cent of the steel bars were cut.

He said that Leighton Asia, the project’s main contractor, should pay for the cost of the examinations.

Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting, a member of the subcommittee, said the government should appoint a third party to conduct the checks, instead of allowing the MTRC to do so.

MTR Corporation ‎Projects Director Philco Wong demonstrating correct ways to connect steel bars to couplers. Photo: Citizen News.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam has ordered a commission of enquiry into the scandal, while lawmakers have urged a separate Legislative Council enquiry. Preliminary hearings started last week.

In August, MTRC Projects Director Philco Wong resigned after the government ordered the MTRC to sack managers overseeing scandal-hit projects. MTRC CEO Lincoln Leung requested early retirement, though the MTRC has asked him to remain until a replacement is found.

Kris Cheng

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.