Construction on HK’s Sha Tin-Central rail link allowed to proceed without required forms as workers were in a rush, senior MTR Corp manager says

02-Feb-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong’s embattled railway operator drew more fire on Friday over a construction scandal gripping its most expensive project, with the suggestion that its on-site managers let the main contractor carry on works without the proper papers because they were in a rush to get the job done.

With Leighton Contractors (Asia) having failed to submit more than 60 per cent of inspection documents for work at the troubled Hung Hom station of the HK$97.1 billion (US$12.4 billion) Sha Tin-Central link, transport minister Frank Chan Fan told lawmakers the government had reported the matter to police.

The proportion of the documents that had gone missing was even higher than the 40 per cent reported earlier this week. The new figure was disclosed by the MTR Corporation, which is overseeing the project, at a Legislative Council railway subcommittee meeting on Friday.

Speaking after the meeting, MTR Corp managing director Jacob Kam Chak-pui said: “[Site staff] suggested that because of the rush in the construction programme, they approved the work on site but could not get the documentation afterwards.”

“But I have no proof of this,” he added.

During the meeting, MTR Corp divisional general manager James Chow So-hung said the completed forms should have been uploaded to an online platform by Leighton.

The documents cover three areas of the link’s Hung Hom station, which is at the centre of a scandal involving alleged shoddy building work.

The rail giant told lawmakers on Friday that 357 of the 572 forms were missing. Only 16 out of 59 forms for the station’s north approach tunnel had been found. Twenty-five out of 39 forms for the south approach tunnel had been retrieved, while only 174 of 474 forms concerning stabling sidings the sidetracks where trains park were available.

Kam later conceded that the missing documents might never be found.

“We suspect there may not be any documentation,” he said, adding that the railway firm would claim damages against Leighton if the project is further delayed.

He said the MTR Corp would “seriously follow up” on staff who had deviated from protocol.

During the meeting, Kam surprised legislators by praising their criticism of his company.

“The scolding from lawmakers is good,” he said.

The transport minister, who was present at the session, said police had been informed of the new developments.

“For the relevant incidents… the government has referred them to law enforcement,” Chan said. He declined to explain why no arrests had been made.

Asked if the MTR Corp and Leighton employees involved could have left Hong Kong, Chan said the city’s law enforcement services could deal with the situation.

He said the MTR Corp had been asked to conduct an internal audit and submit a report before the end of March, and that the government would inspect nine other stations on the rail link.

Lawmaker and former rail boss Michael Tien Puk-sun rejected Kam’s theory, saying that workers could not have continued the construction without the forms, as suppliers would not release the necessary materials.

Instead, Tien said, MTR Corp and Leighton staff could have conspired to delete the forms.

“After everything is recorded and put into the computer, both sides have people that got involved in deleting data,” the lawmaker said, adding that this would amount to criminal fraud.

Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan said it was unacceptable for the government to continue paying the rail company as it had performed poorly.

“The government is still paying the bills, they are still paying the MTR Corp management fees,” she said.

One section of the rail link that joins the Ma On Shan Line and West Rail Line was supposed to commence operations in the middle of this year.

Frank Chan said the government would consider many factors, including safety and capacity, before deciding whether the link should be partially opened.


Category: Hong Kong

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