The first three steel bars inspected at the scandal-ridden MTR Hung Hom Station expansion have all registered as substandard, the government confirmed on Wednesday.

The MTR corporation promised earlier this month to dig up eighty spots at the station expansion in order to check the quality of work. This followed a corner-cutting scandal at the HK$97.1 billion Shatin to Central Link expansion project – the rail operator’s most expensive ever.

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

In June, local media found that contractors had cut short steel bars, instead of correctly screwing them into the couplers connecting the platform wall and the floor.

The Transport and Housing Bureau said on Wednesday that, when a rebar is correctly screwed into a coupler, there should be a maximum of two full “threads” exposed.

However, all three of the tested steel bars exposed more than two full threads.

The bureau added that the steel bars were embedded into the couplers by 29 millimetres, 34 millimetres and 34 millimetres respectively. By design, a fully connected steel bar should be embedded into its coupler by 44 millimetres.

Photo: Screenshot.

Lawmaker Michael Tien, a member of the legislature’s railways subcommittee, said the results were “serious” and “alarming.”

“Using ultrasonic equipment to conduct testing, they found that there was space inside the couplers, to the point where all three [bars] failed the requirements,” Tien said, citing an MTR source.

“The [fail rate] is scarily high… If the three steel bars failed preliminary testing, I can’t bear to see the future test results,” he added.

Tien said the results proved that someone had cut short the steel bars.

However, the MTRC disputed the conclusion, saying in a statement that the three test cases did not show steel bars being cut short.

Michael Tien. Photo:

It said that the steel bars and couplers could show different levels of connection, but that would not necessarily mean the assembly was invalid or that it would affect overall safety.

The MTRC will conduct another round of testing, and then consolidate the results in a detailed analysis of the overall structural integrity of the works. The process is expected to last around 16 weeks in total.

Meanwhile, an independent commission of inquiry – ordered by Chief Executive Carrie Lam in July – continues its hearings on the construction scandal.


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.