Hong Kong MTR

Faulty steel and concrete works add to woes for HK$87 billion Sha Tin-Central rail link

MTR Corporation insists the discovery will not affect safety or the deadline to complete the project 

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 March, 2018, 7:32am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 March, 2018, 6:45pm

Hong Kong’s most expensive rail project suffered yet another headache on Tuesday after operator MTR Corporation admitted that steel and concrete works on a section of the tunnel were found to be faulty.

Work has begun to fix defective connection joints found in the Hung Hom section of the HK$87 billion (US$11.09 billion) Sha Tin-Central link.

MTR Corp said remedial works on the section were expected to be finished next month, but declined to reveal what the cost would be. It insisted that neither the safety of the tunnels nor the link’s schedule would be compromised because of the works.

What now for Hong Kong’s over-budget Sha Tin-Central Link? 

“Neither will it impact on the overall programme of the project,” the corporation said in a statement.

Completion of the government-owned rail link will be in two stages. The Tai Wai-Hung Hom section is expected to be finished in mid-2019, with the cross-harbour section to Admiralty completed in 2021.

The link has run HK$16.5 billion over budget since planning began decades ago. Its total price tag of HK$97.1 billion, which includes the cost of preparatory works, makes the rail one of the most expensive in the world at HK$5.71 billion per kilometre.

An MTR Corp spokeswoman said the company was preparing to seek compensation from the section’s contractor, Leighton Contractor (Asia) Ltd, for the substandard work. The firm did not return calls for comment.

Under a HK$5.2 billion contact, Leighton is responsible for the construction of Hung Hom Station and stabling sidings for the Sha Tin-Central link project, including the Hung Hom North Approach Tunnels. 

The defective works were unearthed last month by MTR engineering staff even though seepage problems were found at a the same location in August last year. At that time water seepage was spotted at the newly completed concrete connection joints of the link’s North South Corridor tunnel during a routine inspection.

Cost of Sha Tin-Central rail link balloons to HK$87 billion

“A number of mitigation measures were applied in the following months to control the water seepage but the situation did not improve,” the railway operator said.

Following further inspections, MTR staff last month removed a portion of the concrete on the surface of the tunnel, revealing that “the workmanship of the reinforced concrete, including the steel bars, did not meet the specifications and required standards”.

MTR Corp said engineers inspected other concrete connection joints at the same site and identified similar issues at two other locations within the 135-metre North Approach Tunnels.

MTR reveals 64 per cent rise in net profit to HK$16.8 billion

The spokeswoman explained the steel bars were not connected correctly, creating holes in the concrete.

MTR Corp then immediately instructed the contractor to conduct remedial works at the locations, including replacement of the reinforced concrete and full reinstatement of the concerned connection joints.

“To facilitate the work, a 10-metre section of tracks for the East West Corridor north of Hung Hom had to be temporarily removed. The work will take about two months and are expected to be completed in April,” it said.

A spokesman for the Highways Department said it would closely monitor the remedial works. 

“When this part of the project is completed, the MTR Corp needs to deliver a report to us, and before the site is handed over to the government we will conduct our final inspections with our consultants.”