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Hong Kong high-speed rail

Hong Kong’s high-speed rail link to mainland China is due to open in September – but the roof is leaking and may not be fixed in time

MTR Corporation’s operations director Adi Lau admits he noticed ‘seepage’ during trials, while lawmaker Tanya Chan slams company as ‘international laughing stock’

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 July, 2018, 8:58pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 July, 2018, 11:19pm

It might be a damp start for the first commuters on Hong Kong’s long-awaited high-speed rail link, as it was revealed the roof was leaking and may not be repaired before the station opens in September.

The MTR Corporation’s operations director Adi Lau Tin-shing admitted he had noticed seepage from the glass rooftop of the West Kowloon terminus of the HK$84.4 billion (US$10.7 billion) cross-border link, caused by the recent heavy rain.

The structure, with more than 4,000 glass panels, is a prominent feature of the terminal, allowing passengers to see the Kowloon skyline.

The rail link has been undergoing trial runs since April 1, including extensive testing of its exit gates and signalling and ticketing systems, as well as emergency drills and exercises.

“During the trials, I observed seepage in some locations,” Lau said. “We are working closely with project colleagues and contractors to fix these problems before the first day of operation.

“If they cannot be fixed before that, we will need to handle the problems in a way that won’t affect the rail operation.”

The HK$9 billion terminus construction was undertaken by a joint venture between Gammon Construction and Leighton Contractors (Asia). Leighton was also at the centre of construction scandals plaguing the HK$97.1 billion Sha Tin-Central rail link. MTR Corp has also been under fire for the shoddy work at the city’s most expensive rail project.

Does the MTR Corp plan to use buckets to catch water at the terminus?
Tanya Chan, Civic Party lawmaker

Lau said that for a large-scale project covering more than 400,000 square metres, teething problems were inevitable, and that the most important thing was to identify problems and solve them.

“It is a very large-scale and complex rail project … Now the seepage problems have been improving. There are only very minor seepages at the West Kowloon terminus. We’ll make sure they won’t affect our daily operation,” he said.

However, the cross-border express rail link has run into a series of glitches since its trial runs, including the derailment of a carriage caused by a poorly designed track, underground water leaks affecting a section of the signalling system and faster-than-expected wear and tear on new train wheels.

Lau said the wear and tear on the wheels had been eased with the use of lubricants, and other problems were also solved.

“From July, trial operations entered the extensive testing stage, which covers all station facilities and train services, as well as 400 drills,” he said.

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The high-speed rail link is connected by seven footbridges and two pedestrian subways to public transport facilities. It takes only four minutes from Austin station, or 12 minutes from Kowloon station, to reach the West Kowloon terminus.

Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan said it was “ridiculous” to hear the leaks could not be avoided after so much money had been poured into the project.

“The whole thing is so ridiculous. This project has been delayed for a long time with so much money being spent. And still the MTR Corp dares to say that these leaks are unavoidable? It is so irresponsible,” she said.

Chan said she suspected the leaks were not as minor as the rail giant claimed, as it had failed to ensure the problems could be fixed before the opening.

“For such a landmark project, how can it expect commuters to accept this standard of quality? Does the MTR Corp plan to use buckets to catch water at the terminus? The MTR Corp is making an international laughing stock of itself,” she said.