• Sun
  • Dec 28, 2014
  • Updated: 12:39pm
NewsHong Kong

MTR could face bill for two-year delay to high-speed cross-border rail link

Controversy over high-speed line to Guangzhou takes new twist, as transport minister's apology amid 'cover-up' claims fails to pacify lawmakers

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 May, 2014, 11:07pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 May, 2014, 7:26am

The government is seeking legal advice on whether the MTR Corporation should pay for the extra costs caused by the two-year delay to the high-speed cross-border railway, the transport secretary revealed yesterday.

Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung and three senior members of the MTR management offered apologies and explanations for the hold-up to lawmakers.

But the lawmakers continued to accuse them of intentionally covering up the problems that will put off completion of the HK$67 billion project to 2017.

Cheung, facing calls to step down, also pledged to introduce reforms to the corporation aimed at strengthening the government's supervisory role.

"I over-trusted them," he told Legco's railways subcommittee. "There were problems with my judgment and the way I handled the matter. I should have made public the split in judgments of the government and the MTR."

Cheung said government officials were dubious whether the project would be completed on time next year, but gave the "benefit of doubt" to the MTR and did not inform lawmakers.

Apologies were also made yesterday by MTR chairman Raymond Chien Kuo-fung, chief executive Jay Walder and project director Chew Tai-chong. The MTR also paid for a full-page apology in newspapers signed by Chien and Walder.

But Chew, who has already said he will step down before his contract ends, said he would take full responsibility.

He said: "I had a number of opportunities to flag the difficulties and the issue upward, in particular the review meetings that took place last October, December and March. "But I didn't say anything - not to the CEO, not to the board, the government, members of Legco or the public."

He conceded he had thought his team could double the excavation rate of the 26-kilometre tunnel to make up for the delay.

Walder, who made a phone call to Cheung last year asking him not to announce the delay, ducked lawmakers' calls to resign yesterday. He said the project was complicated and blamed poor communications.

Cheung said the bureau was seeking legal advice on whether the MTR should pay for the additional costs caused by the delay and whether the MTR should be awarded its management fee of HK$4.59 billion.

Michael Tien Puk-sun, chairman of the Legco railways subcommittee, said the extra costs could be as high as HK$6.2 billion, including HK$3.5 billion for prolonged construction work and economic loss to the city of HK$2.7 billion.

According to the agreement between the government and the MTR, the government may claim against the corporation if it breaches contractual obligations or if a delay involves a breach of warranties.



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This article is now closed to comments

So Govt (76% shareholder in MTR) would fine the MTR?
great idea, dumb oafs Gee, we spotted that one
What to do -
Fire the transport minister for not doing his job , like the rest of the self serving Govt ministers he does not have the courage to accept the responsibility for the FU
fire the MTR glitterati for trying to hide the mess
Both Chien and Walder should resign and man - up to take responsibility.............if not, both are cowards and just shouldering the blame to others. Shame shame shame...............Cowards!!
It was a purely political decision,flying in the face of all logic,to build this terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui.
The government should foot the bill, not the MTR.
Which means that the taxpayers pay. Either way, we are screwed; again.
John Adams
Yes , force "Professor" Cheung and all the MTR top glitterati to resign without compensation / bonus / pension / whatever. May them pay personally by losing their jobs as lesson to others in similar positions of responsibility.
When will ANYONE in this lame duck government and its henchmen ( the MTR, housing Authority, URA etc) ever learn that with high position comes high responsibility?
Failure to do their jobs competently means that they personally failed and so - as in any commercial company - they should resign.... or be fired.
Sure there was bad communication , as they admitted to LEGCO.
But there was also total, utter, inexcusable incompetency .
This makes the "bad old days" of Tung Chee-Wah seem like the "good old days"
At least in those days top ministers had the decency and guts to resign when they proved incompetent ( Regina Ip ) or there was even the slightest whiff of abusing govt policy for their own personal gain (Antony Leung) .
Firing Cheung would give CY a chance to rationalize the ministerial positions: put Housing in Development (fire Paul Chan while he is at it) and make Transport just that. Housing and Transport is too wide of a portfolio. For Transport head I would put in someone highly respected in the community to undo the damage.
The high speed link with the Mainland is not a "white elephant".
It is the one recent massive Government-funded infra-structure project which makes economic sense and which Hongkongers should welcome.
It will connect our territory directly with the Mainland's brilliant and world-leading HSR network and help reduce pollution from unwanted and unnecessary cross-boundary vehicle and aviation movements. Railways provide the cleanest and most economic form of transport per passenger-mile.
What happened to Ministerial Accountability - the buck stops where ?
Sadly, the worst of the lot, Edward Yau, still has a job after his 60 overseas trips in 60 months of doing nothing actually SFA as Environment Minister
Up to 3,000 people a month die from pollution related illnesses (Hedley Index)
He had a magic wand but never used it other than to sign lucrative Scheme of Control renewal & beneficial franchised bus contracts just before exiting
Remind us who owns KMB (SHK) & NWFB (managed by Bowtie's brother)
No doubt he is still pulling the incinerator strings from behind the scenes
Unless the payment of fines comes directly out of the salaries of those in charge of the MTRC, it will be the riders and taxpayers who ultimately have to cover the fines. What incentive is there for the MTRC to get things right when those responsible are more interested in retail and property development than their supposed core mission and don't have to actually foot the bill?
So a minister can lie, make an apology and CY will let him off the hook. Weeks ago he lied straight into our faces with the 'thunderstorm excuse'. If he is let off, other officials will likely follow suit with nothing to fear. Heads need to roll to preserve the government's reputation.
How About
Instead of firing Raymond Chien and Jay Walder, how about a punitaive clause in the new contract to work exactly at what they are doing for half price and half the perks? The guys still gets the pork barrel smiley handshake clause even if they get fired, so why not make them stay and FIX the mess they help created, with the reality they are doing it for half the perks?
Another fix is needed to forestall the poor ticket sales of the HSR in 2 years' time- now if the regular HSR traffic isn't anywhere near its projected figure, and it won't be, what will MTR do to fix this white elephant? Scenic cross border shuttle trains?



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