Work in MTR scandal must instil public confidence
- Some 80 sites are to be torn up on the Sha Tin to Central rail link owing to construction flaws and the authorities have to ensure all irregularities are rectified
It looks almost certain that the HK$97.1 billion Sha Tin to Central link underground rail project currently being built will have to be ripped open for examination after shoddy work was found at a key station. So when the authorities finally decide to dig up the platforms in question to verify their structural safety, the public rightly expects it to be carried out in a thorough and accountable manner. Regrettably, this does not seem to be the case.
Breaking up concrete platforms and walls that have already been constructed is arguably no small task. Over the next few months, 80 sites will be cracked open by the MTR Corporation to ascertain whether steel bars and couplers at the Hung Hom interchange station have been properly fitted. Scientific as it sounds, the numbers represent less than 1 per cent of the total of steel bars involved, according to a lawmaker familiar with the project. The amount of work involved appears disproportional to the problem.
The so-called holistic assessment strategy would not have been needed had the contractors, the MTR Corp and the government discharged their duties conscientiously. The scandal only came to light in May following a series of media reports and is still the subject of an investigation by a government-appointed commission of inquiry. It was revealed the rail company initially wanted to limit the examination to the platform serving the east-west corridor of the line between Tai Wai and Hung Hom, but was forced by the government to broaden the scope to cover the platform serving the north-south route between Hung Hom and Admiralty. It would not be surprising if the probe fails to instil public confidence in its credibility. The authorities must not rule out the need to further expand the scope of the examination and drill open more sections if necessary.
Irregularities such as steel bars detached from couplers, the honeycombing of concrete and improper installation of shear reinforcement are not supposed to be found in a city reputed for its world-class civil engineering. The scandal has not only damaged our international image, but also confidence in the safety of public works. The authorities must seize the opportunity to ascertain the scale of the irregularities and rectify them accordingly.