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Hong Kong MTR

MTR Sha Tin to Central link works scandal will not be resolved with a witch-hunt

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 June, 2018, 6:15pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 June, 2018, 6:15pm

Launching a witch-hunt is not the priority task in tackling the fallout of the works lapses on the MTR’s Sha Tin to Central link, whether it’s John Charleston’s suggestion to go through the “inspection and test plan” (“MTR steel bars scandal: finding the guilty is easy if this is done”, June 12) or the Hong Kong chief executive setting up an independent investigation (“Carrie Lam announces judge-led inquiry into MTR Corp’s Sha Tin-Central rail link corner-cutting scandal”, June 13).

The priority task is to find out if indeed reinforcement steel bars were cut short to falsely look as if they had been screwed into couplers, and how many, starting from 2015.

Without such evidence, pinning down who was responsible for the inspection doesn't help one bit on the way forward.

The inspectors cannot be expected to have watched over each and every one of the screwing-on operations for the 5,000 bars involved, the number according to lawmaker and former rail boss Michael Tien Puk-sun. They can only watch over the screwing-on of a representative sample batch and then decide whether to certify that all had been properly done.

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The concrete-pourer apparently blew the whistle, for fear that it would be blamed for below-strength structures discovered in the future.

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It seems that nothing short of digging up the concrete, to see just how many such couplings had the reinforcement bars cut short, will allay fears. But then what?

It can be safely assumed that a few couplings could not be done – either because the reinforcement bar was not aligned with the coupler, or the screw threads in either the coupler or on the bar had been fouled up and no replacement was available soon enough.

But all is not lost. Perhaps with a small enough number of couplings not having been done, the level of safety is still within acceptable limits.

If the inspectors will now vouch for the sample checks having been done and that no more than an acceptably small number of couplings were found not done, the total digging up of the concrete can be avoided, to declare the structure safe.

Peter Lok, Heng Fa Chuen