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  • Jul 22, 2014
  • Updated: 8:35pm


The MTR Corporation (its original full name was Mass Transit Railway Corporation) is listed on the Hong Kong Exchange and is a constituent of the benchmark Hang Seng Index. MTRC operates the Hong Kong underground rail system and is a major property developer and landlord in the city. It also invests in railways outside Hong Kong.

NewsHong Kong

Problems at Sai Ying Pun's new MTR station may delay West Island Line

Construction holdups at Sai Ying Pun leadto yet another setback for MTR Corp

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 May, 2014, 3:03pm
UPDATED : Friday, 30 May, 2014, 7:13am

Sai Ying Pun's 15,000 residents could be left without a long-awaited MTR station until early next year if construction problems at one of its exits are not resolved.

The MTR Corporation revealed yesterday that the West Island Line may not meet its planned December opening unless five of the station's six exits are proven safe to run while the sixth is under construction.

This would mark the fifth major MTR project to be met with delays, effectively meaning all five of the commissioned projects have been wracked by setbacks.

The operator said excavation work at exit B3 on Ki Ling Lane had run into problems, rendering the exit unfit to open until next year.

The company has been forced to use a slower and more expensive ground-freezing process to excavate in soft soil conditions. The process involves hardening soil by freezing the water content, making it easier to drill.

MTR general manager Mark Cuzner said the problem was not likely to affect the line's opening. But if construction of the exit affected the safety of adjacent exits, the entire station's opening would be pushed back until early next year unless trains temporarily omit the stop. The holdup could also cause the entire line's opening to be deferred to the first quarter of next year, he added.

"We believe we can complete five entrances needed to meet safety requirements for passenger operation which will enable us to open the station in December," Cuzner said. "But the programme is very tight and there is no buffer time available."

The corporation had presented a "backup plan" to the government, which would allow it to go ahead with the December opening - but with trains skipping Sai Ying Pun.

"If [the station] is not ready for December and the backup plan proves not to be feasible, then full opening of [the line] will take place in the first quarter of next year," Cuzner said. Further details about the opening of the line will be announced in October.

Cuzner stressed that the rail operator was still operating within its allotted budget.

The Transport and Housing Bureau said it had received the MTR's backup plan last week and would closely monitor the progress to ensure the line would be fully operational as scheduled.

Engineer Albert Lai Kwong-tak, of the public policy think tank Professional Commons, said the MTR should have known and disclosed the soil problems early on.

Central and Western district councillor Lo Yee-hang, who represents Sai Ying Pun, said the MTR's explanation was "unacceptable". "The MTR meets [the council] every two months and each time they come, sit here, and say there are no problems. They have no excuse to give us this explanation now," Lo said.

She said the council would make a written complaint to the bureau. "I will have a very hard time explaining this to my constituents," Lo said.

Roughly 90 per cent of the line is complete. The 3km line links Sheung Wan to Sai Ying Pun, the University of Hong Kong and Kennedy Town.


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This article is now closed to comments

In response to:-
"The government owns over 70% of the MTRC shares. Surely as its largest shareholder, it is time to demand a complete replacement of the top management responsible for these failures to deliver?"
The MTRC is a vehicle deliberately setup by the government as a means for them to offload all their responsibilities and liabilities to... The board of directors at the MTRC are in bed with the government. Quitely, the government officials are talking to the MTRC board and are going "guys, please take a few political bullets for us this time and we'll keep overpaying you... we'll pretend to kick up a big fuss in front of the media but don't worry we have your backs...."
Sadly enough, I suppose you are not far from the truth.
wish to take note (smerkingly) and share with others that MTR knew the issues facing soft ground/deep vertical shaft excavation.....at time of tender reviews..........BUT, chosen to ignore Expensive engineered solution (from experts in local underground works). Instead, MTR took a commercial risky by accepting a low cost solution that has now turn disasterously more exensive....................Serve them right.
The question to be answered is "When does a delay become reportable?". On large complex projects such as this there are potential delays arising on a daily basis. Some can be overcome quickly, some may take months to resolve and some cannot be solved and a delay eventuates. Dialogue on these issues is a daily routine involving the contractors and consultants and MTR themselves. It will be a sad day indeed and a massive waste of time and money if every potential delay needs to be put in the public arena simply because MTR has an element of shareholding in private hands. It seems strange that the massive time and cost overruns in other government departments are not questioned in the same manner?
"Cuzner stressed that the rail operator was still operating within its allotted budget." yes and somehow by magic they will need more money and people will be already paying their 5th fare rise in the year.
Delay upon delay upon cover-up upon opacity.

The government owns over 70% of the MTRC shares. Surely as its largest shareholder, it is time to demand a complete replacement of the top management responsible for these failures to deliver?
You think its OK to jeopardize worker safety to meet a political deadline ?
Its a very short (and technically complex) process delay, relative to the decade plus of bureaucratic fumbling, getting this project approved in the first place.
No it is not ok to jeopardise worker safety. There is no mention by the way that this delay is caused by measures taken out of concern for worker safety, so where you get that from is a mystery to me.

It is also not ok to promise unrealistic completion dates, then miss them again and again. and try to cover up errors leading to (further) delays.The MTR's management should learn to be honest in communications and transparent in its progress on projects like this.
The story says -
"The company has been forced to use a slower and more expensive ground-freezing process to excavate in soft soil conditions"
In otherwords - the typical 'fast cut' digging is not a safe method.
To avoid cave-ins and mudslides, they must take the time to freeze the ground first, rendering it 'rock-hard' and safe for the workers to continue digging.
Worker safety is a paramount concern - we cannot afford the humiliation of digging out its workers from beneath preventable tragedies.
OK maybe not worker safety but it was mentioned that passenger safety was at stake. Its a far cry from the fiasco last month where Anthony CHEUNG apparently lied and blamed the delay on a thunderstorm. I agree this may inconvenience passengers but if its for their safety well.......




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