• Tue
  • Dec 23, 2014
  • Updated: 9:39am
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

For some reason, I value these antiques very much. I think preserving history is very important.
This is political grandstanding and is only occurring because it is the MTR. There have been countless foundations laid for housing and offices right next to this area with no complaints or worries about items in the soil. It has become the Hong Kong way to attack public companies as much as possible recently. Look at all the bad press about the MTR recently. MTR is the best public transport company in the world.
The Shatin - Central MTR must continue without delay as it is desperately needed by the people of Kowloon and New Territories. Without it quality of life is slowly deteriorated as new lines have not kept up with the growth of Hong Kong. 4 years from now the lines will be at bursting point with people having to wait 3 trains before boarding. This will add roughly a 20 minute extra commute daily to everyone and will be packed like sardines. This does not even include the pollution from the busses that trains take away.
Let's stop this madness and get rail public transport moving again.
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.
Reasons not to delay ShaTin - Central Link
a) Current commute times are extending. Busses are backing the roads & Trains are packed
b) Pollution caused by busses / cars
c) Quality of life. Tension with transportation is at an all-time high. This is growing into lower quality of life and tension with mainlanders
d) Cost. 1 million $$ per day in fines because late + the reduction in revenue in the future for delays. This will cause transportation costs to increase (MTR will not burden the extra cost and will pass it on).
e) Toll on current roads will either cause more roads to be built or more maintenance on current ones + more policing.
We need to think about the people of today and not those around 100 years ago. There are many areas of archeological significance in HK. The MTR is much more pressing to the people of HK.
Most likely you are not someone packed onto buses / trains like a sardine. I also doubt you go to the museums of HK to see the artifacts there already. I go frequently and most sit empty. Where will they display these artifacts? Where is the greater good served by them? What more will they tell us?
I think they are of low importance compared to the greater need for public transport.
Should kids not be able to breath clean air? Should parents not have shorter commutes so they can spend more quality time with their kids?
I am all for family values and quality life for all HK people. Delaying the new line only reduces the quality and the cultural advancement is minimal. Only those in the field are pushing for the delay..
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!
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."
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.



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