Japan corners bulk of work on new airport

Keith Wallis

JAPANESE contractors have won the lion's share of construction work on the $34 billion airport and Lantau Island railway being involved in seven of the 14 contracts confirmed by the Mass Transit Railway Corporation (MTRC).

Figures compiled by the South China Morning Post show Japanese firms have more than $5 billion of the $13 billion worth of the MTRC work.

All of this, apart from a $599 million order in June, has been let since the Legislative Council approved construction funds in mid-November.

Russell Black, MTRC's project manager, said most of the 16 outstanding contracts would be let early next year.

These deals include the Hong Kong Island Central Station, the $1.7 billion rail track order, lifts and platform doors.

Engineering consultants are gearing up for another explosion of airport railway work to design architectural fittings, delayed for more than six months because of politics.

In the construction stakes, Kumagai Gumi (Japan) is the clear leader with more than $2 billion worth of work under its belt.

This is split between contracts for Kowloon Station - at $2.6 billion the biggest single deal yet awarded - the immersed tube between Central and Kowloon, and Tsing Yi Station.

Kowloon Station is a massive five-hectare structure with two below-ground platform levels for the Airport Express and Lantau lines and three above-ground levels for the station concourse and shops.

About 660,000 cubic metres of material will be excavated, with 240,000 cu metres of concrete and 46,000 tonnes of steel reinforcement planned for the construction.

Work on the 1.25 kilometre immersed tube tunnel started in June. The first tube segments, being cast in a dry dock at Shek O on the southeast side of Hong Kong Island, should be floated into position early next year.

Close behind Kumagai Gumi are Japanese companies Maeda and Aoki with $1.66 billion and $1.1 billion in contracts respectively.

Maeda is working on two jobs - Tsing Yi Station in a joint venture with Kumagai Gumi and Lai King Station and tunnels.

The $760 million Lai King project entails complicated tunnelling work to ensure the existing Tsuen Wan line operates normally while tunnels are built for the Airport Express and Lantau lines.

Aoki is building Tung Chung Station on Lantau Island in a $1.1 billion deal. Similar to Kowloon Station, Tung Chung will be built with two below-ground platforms and a ground-level concourse. About 1.3 km of tunnel is included.

Surprisingly, Spain is in second place after two of the country's largest contractors, Entrecanales and Cubiertas, won the construction contract for Kowloon Station with Kumagai Gumi.

British contractors are third, winning nearly $1.77 billion in work spread among seven contracts - the same number as those involving Japanese builders.

The biggest is by Kier in a joint venture with local firm Sun Foo Kee (Civil).

The consortium won a $720 million contract to build a 300-metre subway linking the present Central Station with the airport railway's new Hong Kong Island Central Station on the reclamation. GPT (Exports), the specialist telecommunications company, has a $330 million order to supply and install two telephone systems, closed circuit television, public address and passenger information display networks at stations and tunnels along the 34 km airport and Lantau line.

Other work has been let to British firms mostly in joint ventures with other international partners.

Tarmac is sharing construction of the $599 million immersed tube across the harbour with Kumagai Gumi.

John Laing International is working with Hip Hing Construction on the $430 million construction of Tai Kok Tsui Station and Amec has linked with Shui On Civil Contractors and China Fujian to construct tunnels south of Kowloon Station in a $440 million order.

Other work has gone to Anglo-French engineering firm GEC Alsthom for the supply and installation of a $470 million signalling system and to Balfour Beatty for the $180 million overhead power line.

Hong Kong companies have also done well, winning more than $1.35 billion worth of construction and building services installation work.

Leading firm is GEC (Hong Kong) with a $540 million power-supply deal.

The firm, which is expected to source part of the material from Britain, will supply and install the 33 kilovolttransmission and 11 kV distribution networks for both the airport and Lantau railways. Other work includes a 1,500-volt generating plant for the ventilation buildings and batteries and chargers for the 110-volt direct current power supply.

Top contractor Sun Foo Kee is sharing construction of the $720 million Central subway with British firm Kier.

Extensive measures will have to be taken to avoid massive traffic jams when the firms start excavating the subway across Connaught Road from World-Wide House to Exchange Square.

Consultants for the MTRC have prepared a scheme to divert east-bound traffic from Connaught Road to Connaught Place outside the General Post Office.

Hip Hing is also working with British contractor John Laing International to build Tai Kok Tsui Station under a $430 million contract.

This is the third project they have won together, although they have so far shied away from a formal partnership deal.

The other main job is the new British Consulate-general close to the Conrad Hotel in Central, where Hip Hing is responsible for construction and Laing the management expertise.

One of the territory's largest contractors, Shui On Civil Contractors, has a third share of a $440 million contract to build tunnels in south Kowloon between the immersed tube portal and Kowloon station.

About 450 metres of tunnel, built as a huge concrete box covered by earth, will be constructed with several ventilation buildings and sea water intakes. About 240,000 cu metres of material will be excavated to form the concrete structure.

A similar amount of excavation will take place during the $270 million construction of the Kwai Chung Park Viaducts, awarded to Wan Hin with French firms Campenon Bernard and CFE.

However, whereas the Kowloon south tunnels will be built in reclaimed sand, the kilometre-long Kwai Ching Viaducts involves heavy rock excavation.

Two German companies have picked up contracts, taking their share of the airport railway so far to $1.16 billion.

AEG, the transport engineering firm, has won the larger deal with a half share in a $1.6 billion order to design and manufacture rolling stock for the Airport Express and Lantau lines.

The company will provide 11 trains of five cars for the airport express fleet and 12 six-car trains for the Lantau line.

Most of the manufacturing will be done by CAF, AEG's partner in Spain, from where they will be shipped to Hong Kong in 1997.

Ed Zublin has two contracts with Downer, the New Zealand contractor which merged last summer with Paul Y-ITC. The bigger deal covers the $430 million construction of tunnels and viaducts in Tsing Yi to link with the Lantau fixed crossing on the western side and the Rambler Channel bridge in the east.

The second scheme, valued at $220 million, is another tunnelling project which takes the railway through a 1.8 km stretch of east Lantau Island to connect the Lantau fixed crossing with the railway reserve on the North Lantau Expressway.

French firms have won five projects, although the combined value of this work is a relatively small $830 million.

The biggest has gone to Dragages for its share of the 1.1 km Rambler Channel bridge being built with Japan's Penta Ocean Construction.

The other major project is a $170 million order to CNIM for the manufacture of 82 heavy-duty escalators and four travelators in each of the airport railway stations.

Other work has gone to GTM and CFE in association with other international firms.

At the rear of this railway bonanza is New Zealand contractor Downer and China Fujian, a mainland firm.

Downer is working on two tunnelling jobs with Ed Zublin, while China Fujian is linked with Britain's Amec and Shui On Civil Contractors for Kowloon south tunnels.