Hong Kong MTR

MTR chiefs apologise over two more rail project delays

Managers from the rail operator say difficulties in site works led to the six-month delays

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 June, 2014, 6:52pm
UPDATED : Friday, 13 June, 2014, 4:11am

The MTR says two more of its railway-building projects face delays, meaning that all its five projects may open late. The MTR said the Kwun Tong line extension and the South Island line would be six months late.

It cited engineering difficulties at Admiralty station and in Whampoa in explaining the delay of the two lines until 2016.

The announcement comes two months after the MTR Corp disclosed that the opening of the cross-border high-speed railway would be postponed by two years.

It also admitted that the West Island line, scheduled to open by the end of the year, and the first phase of the Sha Tin-Central link, supposed to be completed by 2018, might not meet their deadlines.

The HK$5.3 billion Kwun Tong line extension links Yau Ma Tei, Ho Man Tin and Whampoa. The HK$12.4 billion South Island line connects Admiralty to the southern part of Hong Kong Island. The MTR pays for the construction and any extra costs incurred.

MTR chief executive Jay Walder and projects director Chew Tai-chong - whose departure from the corporation was announced at the height of the row over the high-speed rail delay - took responsibility.

"I am very sorry to have disappointed [the communities] and made them wait longer," Walder said.

Chew denied the MTR had been too optimistic when it set its completion dates. But when asked later whether the assessment by the government and the MTR was inaccurate, he said: "You are not wrong in saying so."

Last month, the MTR was still saying it was confident the two lines would be open on time next year. Walder said yesterday the MTR would brief the public on the progress of its projects more regularly in future.

The Transport and Housing Bureau said it was informed of the delay last Thursday.

Mark Cuzner, project manager for the South Island line, said the team had encountered great difficulties in extending Admiralty station. Three additional levels were being built below the existing station, and the most complex part was excavation below existing lines.

The project manager for the Kwun Tong line extension, James Chow So-hung, said busy traffic and complex underground utilities at Whampoa had contributed to delays on that line.

Dr Greg Wong Chak-yan, a former president of the Institution of Engineers who worked on construction of the Admiralty station in the 1970s, said the delays were understandable. He noted that the MTR was working 40 to 50 metres underground at Admiralty and the roads in Whampoa were privately owned.

"It would actually be surprising if they said they could finish the projects on time, when we are short of labour," he said.

New People's Party lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun said the delays showed the government's monitoring was weak.

The Legislative Council will discuss the matter on Tuesday.

Chew will retire in early October. Walder will not renew his contract next year although he and the MTR said this had nothing to do with the delay in the high-speed railway.