The latest relics to be discovered at a railway construction site in Kowloon City may have been hit by piles driven into the ground, the MTR has admitted.
The relics were found at the site of the To Kwa Wan station on the Sha Tin-Central line after thousands of artefacts - including an ancient well and parts of a building that may date back to the 10th century - were found in an area to be used as a tunnel shaft prompting the archaeological excavation area to be extended at the start of the year.
Previous studies had already suggested the structures may extend beyond the shaft site.
However, Peter Ip Ho-ching, MTR's construction manager for the line, said yesterday that the rail operator had not been aware of the possible presence of relics when piles were being driven into place to support the shaft. "Some [ancient] structures are very close to each other, so it would not be surprising if some piles indeed hit them," he said. Ip did not say if any damage had been found.
He said that before the Antiquities and Monuments Office makes its decision on whether or not to preserve To Kwa Wan relics in situ, steel panels would be driven 12 metres into the ground in an effort to protect all the relics discovered so far that have not yet been removed.
The operation would use technology that cuts out noise and vibrations. Instruments to monitor vibration and soil settlement would then be installed.
Tunnelling could then continue, and the area could be preserved in situ if the station's design was adjusted, he said.
While the discoveries had led to a five-month delay in tunnelling, Ip said the actual impact on the project could not be determined until the archaeological excavations had been completed and the antiquities office had decided how to preserve the relics.
Ip said the MTR had presented the plan to the antiquities office, but the Development Bureau suggested more monitoring instruments be added. The panels would only be installed once the MTR had received permission from the office.
The relics at the site are now under canvas. Ip said installing the panels was urgent to protect the relics from rain and sun.
Ip said the panels could take a few weeks to install. "We will take it slowly and when there's any problem, we will know about it."
Rival protests were held at the site yesterday. One group called for the MTR to stop work, while another - which protested during a visit by district councillors - called for the first phase of the link to open in 2018 as scheduled.