Highways Department under fire over extra HK$430m in highway costs
Highways chiefs slammed for multimillion-dollar cost overruns caused by months-long delays that could have been avoided
Highways chiefs have been pulled up sharply by the Audit Commission for blunders that contributed to delays and additional costs of almost HK$430 million on an expressway project.
The commission found that all five contracts for the 7.6-kilometre Tsing Yi section of Route 8 - which links Tai Wai with the airport - ran over schedule by up to 17 months, leading to a cost overrun of HK$429.5 million.
The section, which connects Tsing Yi to Cheung Sha Wan, was finally opened to traffic in December 2009.
Three viaducts, a tunnel and a bridge, near the Kwai Tsing container terminals, were designed to help ease traffic on route 3 - the series of expressways from Sai Ying Pun to Yuen Long - which was expected to have reached saturation in 2006.
It also provided alternative direct access to container terminal 9 on Tsing Yi Island.
Another section of the Route 8 highway which starts in Cheung Sha Wan and runs to Sha Tin, was completed in 2007.
The longest overrun was 529 days for the traffic control and surveillance system.
Another delay, of nine months, was for the Ngong Shuen Chau Viaduct which was completed in August 2007.
The holdup came after a key drilling test was omitted from the tender's bill of quantities, which required an additional HK$32.8 million to resolve.
The Highways Department was also not informed of a consultant's request to review the piling design, which later led to a delay in construction work.
The auditor also found the department had not sufficiently consulted affected parties before deciding to use a piece of private land on Stonecutters Island as a temporary worksite.
When the land owner objected, the department had to use three alternative land lots, which incurred an additional cost of HK$23.8 million and an extra 66 days for construction work.
Construction of the Nam Wan Tunnel and West Tsing Yi Viaduct was also completed five-and-a-half months later than the original target.
The differences in tunnel linings between two drawings were not clarified and different thicknesses of tunnel linings were not specified in the bill of quantities, so the contractor did not provide rates for some tunnel linings.
The final cost for the lining works was HK$153 million.
The report also criticised the department for not inquiring why the contractor's rate for the tunnel linings was three times higher than the pre-tender cost.
The report recommended that the Highways Department sets up a mechanism where both department staff and relevant consultants list independent bills for each job to avoid missing items.
The report also recommends the department set up a monitoring system for contractors carrying out projects, and that the department approve all additional costs above HK$300,000 before work starts.
The Highways Department said it agreed and accepted the auditor's suggestions.