The boss of an MTR construction sub-contractor, answering lawmakers’ questions on Friday, said that top railway executives knew about problems plaguing the Hung Hom station expansion much earlier than they claimed.
Jason Poon Cheuk-hung, a director at the construction firm China Technology Corporation, said at a Legislative Council subcommittee meeting that a general manager knew about incidents of corner-cutting as they were happening in 2015. He also said the MTR Corporation’s Projects Director Philco Wong was aware of the situation at the end of 2016.
“When China Technology workers told MTRC frontline staff about the issue, we noticed that it became open knowledge at the construction site level,” Poon said. “Our workers also saw MTRC staff trying to stop [the corner-cutting], so it’s natural that the general manager knew.”
The Hung Hom station expansion is part of the HK$9.8 billion Shatin to Central Link. Workers were found to have incorrectly installed steel bars that connect the platform wall and the floor, and following a series of media revelations last month Chief Executive Carrie Lam ordered a commission of enquiry into the scandal.
Poon has become an outspoken critic of the MTRC and Leighton Contractors (Asia) Limited since first breaking his silence last month. Despite being bound by a confidentiality agreement, Poon gave extensive media interviews to describe how the corner-cutting occurred; he stopped short of naming the culprits but said China Technology was not responsible.
Poon said he has given 80 gigabytes of photos and documents on the Hung Hom station incident to the police.
Poon appeared on Friday at the request of the Legislative Council’s Subcommittee on Matters Relating to Railways, in its second attempt to get answers from the relevant parties.
Philco Wong, MTRC Chairman Frederick Ma and the Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan attended the meeting last week, but were absent on Friday. Main contractor Leighton Asia and sub-contractor Fang Sheung also sent no representatives.
MTRC executives said at the meeting that all of the available information was included in the 64-page report submitted to the government in June. The MTRC will fully cooperate with the independent commission’s investigation, they said.
According to Poon, the MTRC conducted weekly checks of the Hung Hom work site. He was accompanied by Aidan Rooney, the general manager of the North-South Line of the Shatin to Central Link, to conduct inspections three to four hours long.
“The executive [Rooney] asked me on at least three occasions whether the cutting of the steel bars has stopped, and I told him it hasn’t,” Poon said.
Poon also said he discussed the situation with Wong in late 2016, who promised to follow up on the situation.
“I assumed he knew… and my impression was that he knew,” he said. The MTRC has acknowledged that it received an email from Poon concerning the Hung Hom station expansion in January 2017.
MTRC executives expressed doubts about Poon’s version of events, saying that he was making serious allegations without clear evidence. While the MTRC interviewed Poon for its June report, his statements were omitted from the final version.