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Inquiry into corner-cutting scandal will examine ‘systemic issues’ at MTRC and parts of gov’t, says Chief Exec. Carrie Lam

Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said a commission of inquiry into the corner-cutting scandal at the Hung Hom station expansion will look into “systemic issues” concerning the MTR Corporation, as well as relevant parts of the government.

A series of corner-cutting and engineering errors relating to the Sha Tin to Central Link project have been exposed by the press over the past two months. Lam set up the commission to investigate the first scandal at Hung Hom.

Lam said she noticed some lawmakers had asked for the commission’s role to be widened to include other stations, but she maintained that conditions at Hung Hom differed to the issues at To Kwa Wan station and Exhibition Centre station.

Carrie Lam

Carrie Lam. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

“In order to conduct in-depth [investigations], the terms of reference have to be very exact and very precise,” she said ahead of the weekly Executive Council meeting on Tuesday.

But Lam added that the commission will look at structural issues as well, and the government will ask for recommendations from the commission after the investigation.

“They include problems with the MTRC in designing and constructing the rail link, and whether we – government departments – have problems in terms of monitoring,” she said.

Around 5,000 steel bars were improperly cut at the Hung Hom station expansion project, contrary to an earlier account that put the number at less than 25, according to lawmaker Michael Tien.

Hung Hom station steel bars

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

Lam also said the government has found a second member for the commission, who is an expert in engineering, and his identity will be revealed once the government is in a position to do so.

The second member is reportedly Peter Hansford, a veteran English civil engineer. Hansford and the first member – retired judge Michael Hartmann – were both part of the 2014 independent expert panel investigating delays in the construction of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link.

Public safety

Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan said the scope of the commission should be widened to other stations.

She cited a government document given to the legislature’s Subcommittee on Matters Relating to Railways last week, which said the MTRC’s failure of management at the Exhibition Centre station had caused safety issues with workers and the public.

Tanya Chan

Tanya Chan. File Photo: inmediahk.net.

At Exhibition Centre station, inadequate supporting I-beams were installed, and two steel bar cages used for building diaphragm walls were constructed in the wrong direction.

“I don’t understand why till today Carrie Lam still gives vague answers [on other stations] and avoids answering to such serious safety issues- only putting the focus on the Hung Hom station,” Chan said.

Chan also said she was set to meet the rail project’s main contractor Leighton Asia this week, but the company cancelled the meeting without giving any reason.

Inquiry into corner-cutting scandal will examine 'systemic issues' at MTRC and parts of gov't, says Chief Exec. Carrie Lam