The MTR Corporation will dig open 80 spots at two new platforms at Hung Hom station this month following a corner-cutting scandal.

In June, contractors were found to have been cutting short steel bars instead of correctly screwing them into the couplers connecting the platform wall and the floor.

Jacob Kam
Jacob Kam. Photo: RTHK Screenshot.

These corner-cutting tactics were exposed after a series of reports revealed engineering problems and mistakes at the HK$97.1 billion Shatin to Central Link expansion project. The rail project, which has been Hong Kong’s most expensive, will connect Shatin to Central.

The 17 km new line will be more expensive than the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, which cost HK$86.4 billion.

The government’s Director of Highways Jimmy Chan said it was acceptable for the MTRC to conduct checks at different stages through the construction process.

“[The MTRC] can check the quality of work and structural safety at Hung Hom station, stage by stage, and comprehensively,” he said.

Hung Hom station expansion
Hung Hom station expansion. File photo: RTHK Screenshot.

Asked whether the checks would delay the opening date, Chan said the government would only let the station’s expansion open if it passed safety standards.

The first digging operation has been scheduled for Monday at 24 locations on the east-west section’s platform. At the other 56 locations, concrete will be randomly dug open to investigate 168 steel bar-coupler connections.

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

The east-west section of the line connects Wu Kai Sha to Tuen Mun, and is expected to open by mid-2019. The north-south section will connect trains from Lo Wu or Lok Ma Chau to Admiralty, and is scheduled to be operational in 2021.

Jacob Kam, managing director of MTRC, said that the University of Hong Kong would independently conduct random tests.

“The random sampling method has been used internationally for a long time – it is effective,” he said. “This method can give us an objective and scientific conclusion.”

The work is expected to last at least 16 weeks.

Jacob Kam said the MTRC was looking into opening the Shatin to Central Link in two stages, but added that it was a complicated issue and that it would take time.

MTR steel bars
Photo: Screenshot.

Engineering sector lawmaker Lo Wai-kwok said the plan was practical and scientific.

“I hope the result will show clearly whether the structure is safe,” he said.

But he said he wished the testing period was shorter than 16 weeks.

Lawmaker Michael Tien, a member of the legislature’s subcommittee on railway matters, said the MTRC should investigate at least 128 locations.

He also said randomised checks should cover at least five per cent of the total number couplers. As such, the MTRC should check 1,300 couplers as opposed to just 168, he said.

Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan, also a member of the subcommittee on railway matters, said she agreed with the examination methods, but believed the MTRC should cover the cost of repairs should problems crop up.

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.