Hong Kong Politics & Protest Travel & Transport

MTR Corp. top brass fired as Hong Kong gov’t demands action over construction scandals

MTR Corporation Projects Director Philco Wong has resigned after the government ordered it to dismiss relevant managerial figures following a string of scandals involving the HK$97.1 billion Shatin to Central Link.

The government has said the MTRC’s two engineering drawings for the Hung Hom station expansion submitted in June and July contradicted each other. The July one featured 2,000 fewer couplers than the number required in the government approved plan.

Philco Wong Frederick Ma Lincoln Leong

From left: MTRC’s Philco Wong, Frederick Ma, Lincoln Leong. File Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

MTRC CEO Lincoln Leung requested early retirement, though the MTRC has asked him to remain until a replacement was found. Three MTRC executives at the general management level will also be leaving the company. Jacob Kam Chak-pui, managing director of operations and mainland business, will be responsible for overseeing capital projects in the meantime.

Board Chair Frederick Ma said that he had tried to resign from his position twice, but the government did not accept his requests. Ma said he “respects the spirit of accountability very much,” but he was asked to stay on to head the search for the firm’s new CEO.

The decisions were made following an MTRC board meeting on Tuesday. The government is the MTRC’s major shareholder.

Series of scandals

The Hung Hom Station expansion project is part of the Shatin to Central Link, which is set to start operating in 2021. At the end of May, it was revealed that, in 2015, workers had cut steel bars instead of correctly screwing them into the couplers connecting the platform wall and the floor.

The MTRC submitted two reports over the walls on June 15 and July 13. Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan said the July drawings “severely deviated” from the plan approved by the Highways Department, and the MTRC was unable to give a reasonable explanation.

kowloon tong mtr

File Photo: GovHK.

At a press conference, Ma said there were “inaccuracies” in the July 15 incident report and “lapses in the supervision work” during the project. He apologised and said he was disappointed that the incidents undermined the government’s confidence in the MTRC.

According to Chan, the government held an urgent meeting last Sunday and decided that the management team for the Shatin to Central Link had irrefutable responsibility. It demanded the MTRC board dismiss relevant engineering managers.

Chan said a group of consultants will be appointed by the government to join the MTRC.

Gov’t inspection 

Director of Highways Daniel Chung said that, when his staff inspected the Hung Hom station site, the number of couplers totalled 23,500. The figure was signed and confirmed by MTRC engineering staff.

But the July 13 drawings showed there were 2,000 fewer couplers. Chung said he was unable to confirm which one was true.

Hung Hom station steel bars

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

“Until now, [the MTRC] still cannot answer the questions,” Chung said. “To be honest, we have no confidence in them.”

The matter has been referred to the police.

Jason Poon, a director at the contractor China Technology Corporation for the rail link, previously said that Philco Wong was aware of the corner-cutting situation at the end of 2016.

At a press conference on June 6, MTRC representatives said that fewer than 25 defective connections were found during five inspections conducted in 2015. About a week later, Chief Executive Carrie Lam ordered a commission of enquiry into the Hung Hom station expansion.

Director of Buildings Cheung Tin-cheung said the government will install monitoring devices at the station.

Additional reporting: Holmes Chan.

MTR Corp. top brass fired as Hong Kong gov't demands action over construction scandals