A third railway project of the embattled MTR Corporation has been hit by delays but the rail operator says the Kwun Tong Line extension will still open next year as planned.
The Transport and Housing Bureau admitted yesterday that it had known for six months about delays to the 2.6km underground line extension that will provide a five-minute ride from Yau Ma Tei to Whampoa Garden via Ho Man Tin.
"Progress reports submitted by the MTR to the Highways Department over the past six months showed that certain works had been considerably behind schedule," the bureau said in a statement issued yesterday in response to media reports.
It said the agreement between the government and the MTR stipulated that it was possible for the latter to amend the completion timetable, "but thus far the MTR has made no amendment at all".
The MTR informed the government 10 days ago that it was "reassessing the completion date of the project", the bureau's statement said.
But an MTR spokeswoman said that the original completion estimate for the line extension remained unchanged.
She said some 60 per cent of the line had been completed by April.
Blasting work in hilly areas near the Ho Man Tin station site had recently been completed for its structure and platforms, while construction of the Whampoa Garden station required extra care due to busy transport flows there, the spokeswoman said.
The news comes after mounting pressure on the MTR in the past month to explain delays to the high-speed cross-border line and the South Island Line.
Michael Tien Puk-sun, a former chairman of the Kowloon-Canton Railway which has been merged with the MTR, said the bureau's latest non-disclosure probably did not amount to a cover-up because the 2015 deadline was still deemed possible.
"Progress predictions are not a matter of black and white.
"It is a matter of probabilities," he said.
But Tien, a lawmaker and chairman of the Legislative Council's railway subcommittee, said he would consider making it a regular practice in future meetings for the government and the MTR to report the progress of all railway projects under construction.
MTR chief executive Jay Walder will step down after his term expires next year, although it has been denied that the move is a result of the high-speed railway affair that called the government's credibility into question.
Transport and housing chief Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung has vowed to quit if an investigation panel presided over by a top court judge holds him liable for the initial non-disclosure of the delay.