Let’s have spin-free answers on troubled rail link

As the steel bar scandal at Hung Hom station grows, what the public needs to know is whether it will delay the opening of the Sha Tin to Central line

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 June, 2018, 5:38am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 July, 2018, 6:03pm

The MTR has long been seen as a world-beating subway service, the city’s pride and joy. Now, its hard-earned reputation is being dragged through the mud.

The scandal over dodgy construction works on the HK$97.1 billion Sha Tin to Central link goes on and on with each revelation worse than the previous one.

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What was originally a minor corner-cutting incident involving two dozen steel bars may now affect hundreds, if not thousands, of steel bars on several platforms at the Hung Hom station, according to lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun, who claims to have insider information.

A one-time boss of the Kowloon – Canton Railway Corporation before he lost the job as it was merged with the MTR, Tien seems to be having a Schadenfreude moment. By playing the role of fierce MTR critic, a new popularity poll by the Hong Kong Research Association has found him to be the highest-rated legislator at the moment.

A director of a major subcontractor, China Technology Corporation, has gone on radio backing Tien’s call for parts of the platforms to be torn up for physical inspection.

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Leighton Contractors (Asia) is the main group responsible for the Hung Hom station platforms; China Technology did the concreting works and Fang Sheung Construction carried out works on the steel bars.

Construction at two stations on the new rail link has also presented problems.

Police and the Independent Commission Against Corruption have been called in, raising the possibility that criminal acts might have been committed. That’s why there has been so much back-stabbing, and so many mutual accusations and insinuations of wrongdoing from the parties involved.

The board of the MTR Corporation has finally ordered a review of the entire reporting and supervision system for the new link, which is the city’s costliest rail project to date. It is to be conducted by an outside consultant and completed in three to four months.

But it’s too little too late. No one really trusts the MTR reviewing itself. Heads will roll, but that will have to wait for the police, ICAC and a commission of inquiry headed by a former High Court judge.

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What the public is keen to know is if or how the scheduled openings for the new rail link – of Phase 1 next year on the Kowloon side and Phase 2 in 2021 for the cross-harbour section and on Hong Kong Island – could be affected. Let’s have some spin-free answers.