Bridge bosses call up 5,000 extra workers
Five thousand extra construction workers will be hired to speed up the building of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, so that the longdelayed project meets its original deadline.
Labourers will be asked to work overtime and extra construction machinery will be brought in to hit the megaproject's deadline of late 2016, said a Transport Department spokeswoman.
The project was originally expected to need about 9,000 workers. Now it will require 14,000, it has been decided. Construction was originally due to begin by the end of last year, but that was delayed by a judicial challenge to the project's environmental impact assessment.
To make up the lost time, faster reclamation processes and bigger machines will be used, among other measures designed to help Hong Kong connect with Macau and Zhuhai by the initial completion date, the spokeswoman said. The government was confident this would not compromise safety, she said. The government has said the delay may have pushed up costs by HK$6.5 billion.
Funding approval for the project came last week - almost two months after the Court of Appeal confirmed the validity of the environmental permits issued for two key elements of the project, in a ruling against Tung Chung resident Chu Yee-wah, who filed the judicial review in January last year.
The funding includes HK$30.43 billion to build boundary-crossing facilities, HK$16.19 billion for the detailed design, site investigation and preliminary work on two related roads - the Tuen Mun-Chek Lap Kok Link and the Tuen Mun Western Bypass.
That is on top of the HK$10.3 billion already approved between 2003 and 2009 for preliminary works.
The sudden need for 5,000 more workers will not create a shortage of labourers in the city to deal with all the big projects sprouting up in the immediate future, including the bridge, according to Chow Luen-kiu, chairman of the Construction Industry Employees General Union.
Yet, he warned, the fact that Hong Kong has had few sizeable projects like this in the past decade has led the city's construction workers to skip specialised training - for instance in iron-bending and welding.
This means that in a few years, there will not be enough workers for the big projects.
About 17,000 jobs are expected to be generated in the next five years by five MTR projects alone.
'Among the 280,000 workers in our industry, some 10,000 do not possess proper skills even as benders and carpenters. What we need to do is to train them to fit the demand,' Chow said.
'It's crucial that the government begins to train our workers and diversify their expertise.'
The estimated amount, in Hong Kong dollars, by which the delay caused by a legal challenge may have pushed up the price of the bridge