• Wed
  • Oct 15, 2014
  • Updated: 8:57pm
NewsHong Kong

Another MTR rail project, the Sha Tin-Central link, facing expensive delays

Archaeological find raises doubts about the Sha Tin-Central project finishing on time, with any hold-up costing HK$1m a day in penalties

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 May, 2014, 11:33pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 May, 2014, 11:48am

A second major MTR project could be coming off the rails with revelations that an archaeological discovery on the Sha Tin-Central rail link may mean work will not be completed on schedule, resulting in a million-dollar loss for every day of the delay.

The remarks by Wong Wai-kwong, the Highways Department's senior engineer responsible for the MTR's construction of the link, came as he was explaining the impact on the scheduled 2018 completion date after Song dynasty-era relics were uncovered on the Ma Tau Wai section. The archaeological study started in late 2012 and has since grown in importance.

The uncertainty over the link comes amid claims of a cover-up over the two-year delay of the high-speed cross-border railway.

"Subjectively speaking, we still hope the Sha Tin-Central link can be completed on schedule. But … it depends on the archaeological work," Wong told Kowloon City Council.

The MTR had initially scheduled for the archaeological study to be finished by late last year. But discovery of at least 1,000 boxes of relics called "general finds", 3,700 items known as "special find" and 239 structures dating back to as far as the Song era (960-1279) has prompted the Antiquities and Monument Office to require the excavation area to be extended twice.

Part of the works near To Kwa Wan station has been halted since December to make way for the archaeological study.

The planned To Kwa Wan station, the two tunnels connecting To Kwa Wan and Ho Man Tin stations and the launching shaft built for construction of the tunnels, were affected, Wong said.

"Works for the station can be relatively more easily accelerated by deploying more manpower. But for tunnel boring … we are not so optimistic," Wong told councillors.

Citing contract confidentiality, he declined to give a full estimate of the financial loss caused by a delay. But he said the government would have to pay the contractor millions of dollars in penalties each day.

Greg Wong Chak-yan, a former president of the Hong Kong Institute of Engineers who worked for the MTR in the 1970s and 1980s, and Hung Wing-tat of Polytechnic University's department of civil and structural engineering, both said it was technically viable to accelerate works by adjusting the position of the launching shaft.

"There are four years to go before the scheduled completion. I believe there is still room for the MTR to complete the project on time," Hung said. "The key is whether it can find a place to move the shaft."

Both the Highways Department and the MTR said they had no plan to realign the railway.

"We can say that there is no room to move the tunnel," said Kelvin Wu Ka-lun, senior liaison engineer of the MTR.

Councillor Yeung Chun-yu urged the government and the MTR to ensure the relics were preserved and not just focus on the pace of construction. "I hope a win-win situation can be attained," he said. "Residents hope the link will commence service on schedule, but heritage should also be properly protected."



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This article is now closed to comments

The archaeological finds were unforeseeable and has been in the public view since first discovered. It should be preserved. I wonder if the wirter knows what a well and what archaeological finds mean when he proposed the incredible solution of the moving the well.
As to why government is falling apart and everything is being held up, it has nothing to do with the efficiency of the permanent administrative officers -the bureaucrats. It has everything to do with the radical members of the LEGCO who have stymied almost every government project and even administrative measures. Their conduct amounts to criminal misconduct in public office for the deliberate obstruction and destruction of the process of government just to get publicity. If voters continue to think they are wonderful and elect them, they (the voters) deserve what they are getting and cannot complain - just pay,pay, pay. The problem is many of the voters are non-taxypayers and they don't even know what they are missing as the money lost by the antics of these criminal types could gave gone to help their lot and give them a better life, while ensuring efficent, cost-effective and smoother government.
When they are so openly costing the public hundreds of millions through their bovine posturing and delaying tactics, they are not qualified to shout 'cover-up' and ask for the head of every senior staff they can pillory.
Hey! A win-win opportunity here. Move the well and make it a tourist attraction under the new name of "The Jay Walder Memorial Well of Delay."
The Hong Kong government should take the $20+ million this is going to cost and pump that into historical education for our schools. That will do allot more to promote the history of Hong Kong than some artefacts.
These artefacts being discussed now will neve re make into museums and do nothing to improve historical knowledge of our children. It is solely some archilogical buffs who find this interesting and will fight to keep it going as they get paid. Do you think they would be willing to pay the $20 mil loss to the people of HK.
Think of all the tax money and those who paid it to reach $20 million. Probably 300+ people's tax.
And ultimately that is what has gotten Hong Kong Rail in hot water; not upholding due diligence when they first sought to undergo this massive project, not studying correctly the difficulty in accomplishing the project well enough. This archaeological find is different and can be determined as unforeseeable due to the lack of any historic records. Nonetheless isn't it fascinating Hong Kong was well occupied during the Song Dynasty?
A mess? In the eye of the beholder.
Whether or not the city values the archaeological finds really depends on whether the public wants to pause and appreciate the history behind its geographical location. I for one (overseas born) would love to see it protected. Not expecting that giving how the government itself views the value of such finds. However due diligence under the EIA ordinance must be upheld.
Deal or No Deal
The infrastructure of HK is such a mess. It has taken nearly 20 years since pre handover to realise the city is at breaking point and cannot cope. This government is so damn slow to react to anything. If the preservation of history was so important, why are they knocking buildings down for shiny new sky scrapers. Look at the roads of HK, be lucky to find a smooth tarmac stretch. Walk down Wellington St in Central; similar to a jigsaw puzzle.....every tom, **** and Harry wants to dig it up. Won't be surprised if streets start to cave in more. At least it be a good opportunity for those government **** to set up another committee to investigate.
If the transportation system in Hong Kong is bursting, we need to look into why the business centre is in Kowloon and Hong Kong when the population center is in Shatin. Build more roads and railway, by all means. But we also need to shift businesses out to where the people are, which will alleviate traffic pressures. Look in Japan and other countries, it would make sense to move non-essential government services out of Hong Kong island.
Just move the blxxxy thing intact to a new site.
In other countries whole buildings can be shifted without the need to first pull them down. This is but a small stone well, not much more then a couple of meters in width and a few meters high.
All engineers need to do is excavate around it (together with a few feet of the surrounding soil) and then remove the whole contraption without even disturbing the stonework by using a heavy-lift crane.
I know construction companies which could this accomplish this within less than seven days and at probably at less than the cost of the $1 million a day losses now accumulating. Just make a decision!
Ant Lee
Without the Brits governing Hong Kong, all infrastructure projects are delayed for 5 to 10+ years (in case of West Kowloon Cultural Centre - 20 years) and the quality of public facilities are quickly catching up to mainland standards (just look at the CWB swimming pool). I know why its because massive amount of time by HK government is used to execute political agendas for the central government. HK people's livelihood and governance are no longer HK government's priority.
HK people, at least most, have no interest on such antiques. Our education places little emphasis on Chinese history. Without a strong background in history, HK people in general have tiny interest on such things and have no idea on how to appreciate. It is now costing millions of taxpayers money in such a delay. Such amount of money should be better spent on other needed areas and every action should be considered to ensure the rail link to be ready on schedule. Lots of people are looking for a shorter journey in daily commuting.




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