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Gov’t ‘disappointed’ after MTRC misses deadline for report on corner-cutting scandal citing public holiday

The MTR Corporation will submit reports on corner-cutting scandals relating to two under construction Sha Tin to Central Link stations on Tuesday.

It missed a Monday deadline for one of the reports relating to a wall at To Kwa Wan MTR station, which was found to be improperly built. Workers on the HK$97.1 billion project were asked to remove one of two layers of reinforcing bars at the station and cover it up with cement.

The Highways Department demanded a report on the issue by Monday, but the MTRC said it was unable to deliver as Monday was a public holiday.

To Kwa Wan station

Construction site of the To Kwa Wan station. Photo: MTRC screenshot/Citizen News.

The Department expressed its “disappointment and dissatisfaction” following the delay.

Acting Chief Executive Matthew Cheung said on Tuesday that the MTRC promised it would submit the report by Tuesday: “This is not ideal.”

It came after a similar corner-cutting scandal at the MTR’s Hung Hom station expansion project was revealed last month. Workers had cut steel bars at the station to make them look as if they were correctly installed.

Hung Hom station steel bars

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

The police were asked to investigate the incident after a report submitted last week showed contradictory versions of events from different contractors, including Leighton Contractors (Asia), Fang Sheung Construction and China Technology Corporation.

An independent statutory commission led by a retired judge will investigate the Hung Hom issue. Cheung said the government has been seeking a second member to join the commission.

Third scandal

A third scandal relating to the Sha Tin to Central Link was also exposed last week. During excavations at the Exhibition Centre station in Wan Chai, inadequate supporting I-beams were installed between the diaphragm walls, leading to a risk of bending or a collapse of the walls.

Exhibition station

Construction site of the Exhibition Centre station. Photo: Apple Daily.

The MTRC had to order a stop to the work, which was conducted as a joint venture of Leighton Contractors (Asia) and China State Construction.

Lawmaker Michael Tien, chair of the legislature’s Subcommittee on Matters Relating to Railways, said the Exhibition Centre station problem – according to his sources – was caused by foreign engineers, who believed rocks underneath the station could support the walls without I-beams. He claimed they ignored warnings from the MTRC.

“This is beyond a safety issue – this is a violation to rules and regulations,” he told a Commercial Radio programme on Tuesday.

Michael Tien

Michael Tien. Photo: LegCo.

Matthew Cheung said a report on the Exhibition Centre station will also be submitted by the MTRC on Tuesday afternoon: “We are highly concerned about the incident. We will not make any compromises in terms of safety,” he said.

Cheung had also said that the government has demanded Leighton submit a report before next Tuesday.

No structural issues

Secretary for Development Michael Wong said on Monday that government departments have been checking work completed by Leighton.

“So far, we have not seen any structural or quality problems,” Wong said.

Matthew Cheung

Matthew Cheung. Photo: inmediahk.net.

But Tien, a former chair of the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation, said Leighton was responsible for government projects worth up to HK$60 billion, meaning they enjoyed a status whereby “no-one dares to touch them.”

He said the government should change its engineering tender system to give more priority to quality issues such as time management, rather than giving tenders to those who bid with lower prices.

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Gov't 'disappointed' after MTRC misses deadline for report on corner-cutting scandal citing public holiday