The MTR Corporation has said it is unsure why contractors chose to cut short steel bars against regulations, during a Hung Hom station expansion.
“I don’t know why they choose to use this method. This method is not very effective,” said MTRC Projects Director Philco Wong at a press conference on Wednesday. MTRC CEO Lincoln Leong said he would not speculate over why the unapproved methodology was used.
The rail operator admitted that workers in 2015 had cut steel bars to make them look as if they were correctly screwed into couplers securing a platform floor to the walls. If the steel bars are not properly attached, there is a risk that the platform floor could collapse. The station expansion is taking place to accommodate the HK$97.1 billion Sha Tin to Central Link.
Pressed by reporters, Wong did not clearly state the number of problematic steel bars and their locations, out of 26,000 couplers they were connected to.
Wong said the there were five occasions in August and December 2015 were irregularities were found. He said “fewer than five” problematic steel bars were found in each of four inspections, and five problematic steel bars were found during a December inspection.
Wong said there were a lot of construction procedures and there may not be detailed records of everything. He said the December inspection found the problem was relatively serious and a written notification was made to the main contractor, Leighton Asia. Incorrect construction methods were no longer in use by January 2016.
Asked if the worker who cut short the steel bars belonged to Leighton Asia, Wong said there was no evidence to show who was responsible.
Not reported to government
Leong said train tests started at the new Hung Hom station platforms in April, and the progress has showed that the structure was safe.
Leong said that, normally, inspectors stationed at construction sites will demand the rectification of problems immediately. He said superiors would only be notified if the problems occurred continuously and if they affected the building structure.
“This has been the practice across the industry, and is in compliance with the government’s demands. That is why we did not report the incident to the board and the government,” he said.
MTRC Chair Frederick Ma said the board attached great importance to the incident and a report will be submitted to the government.
Ma said the incident occurred three years ago and it will take time to gather the relevant information. The government demanded a report by Thursday, but the MTRC has replied that it can only submit a report as early as next Friday.
“We understand that the government is very concerned about this incident. We will fully respect any decision by the government,” he said.
Independent safety tests will be conducted by engineering consultant C M Wong & Associates Ltd., which will be completed in three to four months. The consultant has conducted independent tests for the City University sports centre and former Central Police Station collapse incidents, as well as the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge falsified concrete tests incident.
“If any violation of regulations are found, we will handle it seriously and report it to the authorities,” Ma said.
The Highways Department said in a statement that it understood the MTRC needed time to collect and organise information, but it demanded the corporation submit a report as soon as possible.
The department said the MTRC should exhaust all feasible means to ensure the tests conducted by independent experts are reliable and comprehensive, and that the tests should be completed as soon as possible. The department also demanded the MTRC submit detailed information and testing plans by experts.
Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting said he was very disappointed by MTRC’s response since it had not answered key questions about the incident, such as why the contractors cut short the steel bars.
He said the MTRC should have made a written warning to the contractor in August 2015 when the problem was first discovered: “We have completely lost confidence in the MTRC.”
Civic Passion lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai has written to the legislature’s house committee to request an investigation by invoking its special legal powers.