MTR staff could face disciplinary action over scandal-plagued Sha Tin-Central link in Hong Kong, rail chief Frederick Ma says
Chairman of city’s rail operator vows to investigate and come clean on any wrongdoing by workers amid police probe and independent inquiry
Hong Kong’s embattled rail giant could take disciplinary action against staff, its chief warned on Saturday, as he expressed dissatisfaction with his company’s failure to internally report changes in its contractors’ building plans.
The comments by MTR Corporation chairman Frederick Ma Si-hang came a day after the Highways Department asked police to investigate faulty work on the HK$97.1 billion (US$12 billion) Sha Tin-Central project because criminal acts might have been involved.
In another incident,a wall near stairs on a platform at To Kwa Wan station was found to have “deviated” from the original design.
“Personally, I’m not happy about the corporation’s reporting system,” Ma said on a Saturday radio programme, adding: “Why was there no report on changed building plans by contractors?”
He vowed the company would look into what happened and improve its internal reporting system.
Ma said he would fully cooperate with police and report any instances of wrongdoing by staff.
Speaking on the same programme, MTR Corp projects director Philco Wong Nai-keung expressed confidence in his workers, saying frontline staff “would not sign their names without full inspections”.
Wong said there were many key checkpoints in the construction project. Main contractors and on-site supervising employees from the MTR Corp are supposed to review and sign off on each phase before work could proceed.
Ma added that a failure to do so would constitute a criminal act.
According to a 46-page report on the Sha Tin-Central rail link project released by the MTR Corp on Friday, subcontractor Fang Sheung Construction said its workers had shortened some steel bars used on a platform at the request of main contractor Leighton Contractors (Asia).
The scandal centred on the bars being cut to make it seem as if they had been screwed properly into couplers.
But Leighton said it was not informed of the incident. The report failed to reach a conclusion on who was responsible for the faulty work.
The report also revealed that MTR Corp chief executive Lincoln Leong only knew about the scandal from media reports on May 29.
Facing criticism, Ma conceded the report was not comprehensive but stressed the difficulties and limitations the company faced during its internal investigation.
“I’m happy that the government has set up a committee to investigate this because the MTR Corp doesn’t have legal power,” he said.
“I hope the committee can find out the truth.”
Commissioner of Police Stephen Lo Wai-chung said the force would look into the case from all angles and not wait for a report from the inquiry.
On Monday, the rail giant was caught in another scandal when it confirmed that a wall near stairs on a platform at To Kwa Wan station had “deviated” from the original design. The MTR Corp said there was no “safety risk”, but a report on that case is to be submitted to authorities next week.
On Saturday’s radio programme, the MTR Corp senior managers revealed more details on the issue.
Wong said the wall in question, which was not load-bearing, had a surface area of about 100 square metres, and a thickness of more than 20cm.
When contractors found some parts of the wall protruding 2cm to 5cm, they removed steel bars in the excess areas and plastered over the spots.
The usual practice for such issues should be to remove the protruding cement, apply anti-rust oil on the bars and then pave over the exposed bricks.
The contractor would be asked to rectify the situation, Wong said, adding it had confirmed the fault and admitted that the work was not in line with the original plan.
Asked whether the Sha Tin-Central rail link project would be delayed because of the investigations, Ma said he could only answer this when the independent probe launched by Lam was completed by the end of the year.
Additional reporting by Christy Leung