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Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge

Contractors working on Hong Kong’s mega bridge demand billions of dollars more

Lawmakers told of claims totalling HK$8.8 billion on three schemes linked to infrastructure project that has been plagued by delays and cost overruns

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 July, 2017, 9:40pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 July, 2017, 10:55pm

Contractors working on the bridge project connecting Hong Kong to Zhuhai and Macau have slapped the Hong Kong government with claims totalling HK$8.8 billion, plunging the project deeper into controversy.

The disclosure was made in a document the Transport and Housing Bureau and the Highways Department submitted to lawmakers on the transport panel on Wednesday.

As of May, the document said, the department received claims of HK$2.8 billion for the Tuen Mun-Chek Kap Kok Link; HK$2.6 billion for the Hong Kong Link Road; and HK$3.4 billion for Hong Kong boundary crossing facilities. The three are components of the huge infrastructure project.

“[The] consulting engineers engaged by the [department] will review the reasonableness of these claims in the light of the contracts, the grounds of the claims and related documents ... submitted by the contractors, and seek the [department’s] comments in respect of the assessments,” the document said.

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The department would “strenuously examine” each claim with a view to safeguarding the interest of the government and ensuring the proper use of public funds, the document said.

It did not state the contractors’ grounds for their demands, but such claims are usually filed when construction costs rise due to delays.

The document said that it was expected to take at least one or two years after completion of the projects for engineers to finish assessing the claims.

“Besides, it cannot be ruled out that the government may have to partake in the negotiation, mediation, arbitration and litigation procedures,” it said.

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The bridge has been plagued with controversies. The Hong Kong section is now expected to open by the end of this year, after a 12-month delay, with its price tag pushed to HK$117 billion after repeated overruns.

It is expected to shorten travel times significantly. According to the government’s estimate, it will slash travel time from Zhuhai to Hong Kong International Airport from four hours to 45 minutes.

The bureau is also asking the legislature for its approval to retain three engineers for up to three years, partly due to the delays. That would cost taxpayers an extra HK$8.2 million for just one year.

Since construction began in 2011, there have been 275 incidents that left 10 workers dead and more than 600 injured.