First section of HK’s most expensive rail project, the Sha Tin-Central link, could open by end of the year

19-Jul-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong’s beleaguered Sha Tin-Central rail link will partially open in the first quarter of next year, according to the transport chief, but will come with added costs so big its operator issued a profit warning on Thursday.

Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan announced the long-anticipated opening of the first part of the city’s most expensive rail project a section from Tai Wai to Kai Tak and negotiations with the MTR Corporation over the ultimate bill.

The project’s total cost will balloon to a fresh record of at least HK$99.1 billion (US$12.6 billion), from HK$97.1 billion.

The MTR Corp said it would cover the extra HK$2 billion and any other costs arising from problems at Hung Hom station.

The company, which is controlled by the Hong Kong government and listed in the city, issued a rare profit warning because of the added outlay.

The extra amount, which would be reflected in its profit and loss account for the first six months of this year, equalled 43 per cent of the semi-privatised firm’s underlying profit in the same period last year.

The partial opening was made possible after the government approved two separate reports compiled by the corporation over construction issues on Hung Hom platforms and missing safety documents covering three locations at the station.

“The two reports point out that part of the work has some flaws in terms of quality and needs reinforcement,” Chan said. “[The MTR Corp] will follow up with its contractor. So who will pay the bill, it takes time to examine.”

The rail project has been plagued by allegations of shoddy work at the station since May 2018. A scandal involving missing the documents followed.

Before the scandals, the Tai Wai to Hung Hom section was expected to open in the middle of 2019, after an original target of December 2018 was pushed back by construction delays.

Chan said the platform at Hung Hom station would not need to be demolished, only reinforced. That section was expected to open by the end of 2021, he said.

As for the opening of the entire link, the minister said it would depend on a construction assessment at Admiralty and Exhibition Centre stations.

Pro-establishment legislator Michael Tien Puk-sun, who chaired the KCR Corporation before its 2007 merger with the MTR Corporation, said he approved of the arrangements. He said the first partial opening was initially planned for the section between Tai Wai and Diamond Hill, adding he had lobbied officials to extend the section to Kai Tak.

He said that, “given how many incidents have happened”, officials would be fortunate to have the line to Hung Hom fully open by the end of next year.

Suggestions of the partial opening emerged in June when the MTR resumed dynamic train tests on the signalling system on the Tai Wai to Hung Hom section during non-traffic hours.

The Sha Tin-Central link involves six interchanges and five new stations with a total track length of 17km.

The scandal involved Leighton Contractors (Asia), the main contractor on the project, which was accused of cutting short reinforcement bars and not fitting them properly into couplers, as well as changing supporting diaphragm walls without authorisation.

The most important part of the Sha Tin-Central link is the word ‘Central’. People mostly want to go to Central using it

Michael Tien, legislator

In February, the MTR revealed 60 per cent of documents to certify works at two approach tunnels, and for stabling sidings or connecting side tracks, were missing.

A commission of inquiry was due to submit a full report on its investigations into the steel bar cutting and the missing documents by December.

Tien said it was important for the project to make up for lost time in building the cross-harbour section between Hung Hom and Admiralty, which he hoped could be opened by the end of 2021 as planned.

“The most important part of the Sha Tin-Central link is the word ‘Central’,” he said. “People mostly want to go to Central using it.”


Category: Hong Kong

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