Hong Kong MTR subsidence worries must be addressed
Public safety has to be assured following the disclosure by rail giant that 131 locations on troubled Sha Tin-Central link require follow-up action
The public is understandably concerned after the safety of the Sha Tin-Central MTR link was called into question once again. Amid growing unease over reports of subsidence found at different sites of the HK$97.1 billion rail project, the government and the MTR Corporation have finally revealed that more than 130 locations required follow-up action. But officials were adamant that this did not necessarily mean nearby buildings and structures were unsafe.
Lawmakers have been pressing hard for a clearer picture of the problems since subsidence issues at individual sites were leaked to the media over the past few months. Previously, the data obtained from monitoring was for internal use only and, belated as it is, the disclosure of details is a step forward. Of the 1,482 monitoring points, 131 are said to warrant follow-up action.
Whether the disclosure will help ease the fears of the public remains to be seen. While it does not take an expert to recognise that subsidence is not uncommon at large-scale public works projects, most people do not have the professional knowledge to judge whether the data provided is within acceptable levels.
Under the existing monitoring mechanism, action will be taken when settlement has gone beyond the so-called trigger values. Officials may well be right in saying that it does not necessarily mean nearby buildings and structures will become unsafe as a result, but with shoddy works at a railway station platform still being investigated by authorities, the public may be excused for being sceptical towards such an assurance.
There is plenty of evidence of buildings being affected by the construction works, and a district councillor has already received dozens of complaints concerning cracks appearing inside flats. The latest case even saw concrete blocks and a ceiling collapse inside the common area of a residential building. Such reports sit oddly with the reassuring words of officials.
Only time will tell whether safety is under threat, but the last thing the public wants is a false sense of security. While there seems to be no reason to panic at this stage, greater efforts are required to address safety concerns.