Hong Kong government looking at ways to make city’s lifts safer, including move to combat potential bid rigging in maintenance process
Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting suggests current system forces building owners to use underperforming contractors
An electronic tendering system for lift maintenance could be set up to stamp out the possibility of bid rigging in the industry after two serious accidents in Hong Kong in little more than a month.
Secretary for Development Michael Wong Wai-lun on Tuesday revealed the government’s plan to bring the Urban Renewal Authority into the fold to play a “more significant” role in helping owners of old buildings to find good lift maintenance contractors.
A woman in her 60s died after she was dragged up then dropped to the bottom of a lift shaft at Paris Court in Sheung Shui on May 10, while a couple were seriously injured in Waterside Plaza in Tsuen Wan when the lift they were in kept going up until it crashed into the top of the 46-storey building in April 8.
At a Legislative Council development panel meeting on Tuesday, Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting said many property owners “had no choice but to stick with underperforming contractors”.
“Many housing estates have told us, when tendering for lift maintenance contractors, they often received few bidding documents,” Lam said.
In some cases, new bidders offer much higher prices than the existing service provider, leaving property owners no choice but to renew contracts, he said.
Both Lam and Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong legislator Vincent Cheng Wing-shun questioned whether the government had a plan against bid rigging.
Wong disclosed that the government has approached the Urban Renewal Authority, a self-financing body specialised in redevelopment, about setting up an electronic tendering system for lift maintenance services.
Wong explained that such a system was currently operated by the URA as part of the government’s “Operation Building Bright 2.0” scheme, which subsidises repair works for buildings over 50 years of age.
The electronic platform, Smart Tender, aims to help owners of private buildings conduct the tendering process for repair workers in a “fair, unbiased and competitive environment”, according to the URA.
“We have contacted the URA and their initial response is positive,” Wong said, without giving a time frame of when the platform might be set up.
The development chief also said the government was studying the possibility of making safety devices a legal requirement for old lifts as a long-term measure to increase lift safety in Hong Kong, which will require amending the law.
“We need to consider … the society’s ability to withstand [the change] and whether there is enough manpower,” he said.
According to the government, there are about 66,000 lifts in the city, but only 20 per cent are equipped with modern safety devices.
Wong said the government is considering giving subsidies to motivate property owners to improve old lifts.
As for the two serious lift accidents, Wong said investigations were ongoing and are expected to be wrapped up by July and August.
“The Electrical and Mechanical Services Department will enforce the law strictly if contravention has
been identified,” he said.