Hong Kong MTR

More than 100 complaints but no compensation from MTR Corp for residents affected by sinking building site

Kowloon City district councillor Kwan Ho-yeung says rail operator covered up subsidence problems caused by Sha Tin-Central Link construction

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 August, 2018, 1:41pm
UPDATED : Friday, 10 August, 2018, 4:10pm

None of more than 100 residents whose homes have been affected by construction of a new rail link in Hong Kong have successfully claimed compensation from the MTR, a district councillor has said.

Kowloon City district councillor Kwan Ho-yeung on Friday accused the transport operator of covering up subsidence problems caused by building work on To Kwa Wan station on the Sha Tin-Central Link.

Kwan revealed the residents’ frustrations a day after MTR Corp confirmed reports that 23 residential buildings in To Kwa Wan had sunk below the statutory limit during construction work, which began in 2012.

MTR Corp insists sinking To Kwa Wan building site is safe

In a statement issued late on Thursday night, MTR Corp also admitted it had not informed Hong Kong and China Gas, known as Towngas, that three gas pipes in the area had once reached the settlement limit.

However, it said it had notified the public utility company and discussed follow-up actions for the settlement problems affecting four other pipes, which Towngas said had been repaired or replaced.

The rail company dismissed public safety concerns over the land subsidence, saying it was “a common phenomenon” resulting from piling, excavation and groundwater extraction work.

Speaking on a radio programme on Friday, Kwan, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, alleged MTR Corp had covered up the subsidence problem, as it had told the district council that the recorded data had not been unusual.

According to documents from meetings held in June 2016 and July 2017 reviewed by the Post, both the MTR Corp and Highways Department representatives had told the councillors that the monitoring data for the subsidence and tilt of buildings had been at normal levels when they raised concerns regarding the vibration caused by the tunnel excavation.

Kwan said the council would hold a special meeting next week and seek an explanation from MTR representatives and government officials.

He said that from 2015, his office had received more than 20 complaints from residents over cracks in their flats. The total number of cases received by the council came to more than 100, he said, citing the council chairman.

Residents fear for their safety as buildings shake and cracks appear in walls

Kwan said some residents had attempted to claim compensation from the MTR Corp for their maintenance fees, but he understood that none had been successful so far.

He said the rail operation had referred them to a loss adjuster, who said the widening cracks had nothing to do with the construction but were the result of ageing buildings.

“If it is proven that [MTR Corp is] really liable, they have no way to escape, and the affected buildings will for sure process [the cost recovery],” Kwan said.

Democratic Party lawmaker Kwong Chun-yu, speaking on the same programme, said: “[MTR Corp] sees the regulations as nothing … Its integrity has gone bankrupt.”

He said it was inevitable that the Legislative Council would push for the invoking of special powers to conduct an investigation and demand the rail operator hand over all relevant data.

But to invoke such powers, support from both the geographical and functional constituencies would be needed. The pro-establishment camp had earlier blocked such a move over an investigation into the shoddy work scandal at the Hung Hom station of the Sha Tin-Central Link.

Troubled MTR Corp’s profits drop to HK$4.64 billion

Meanwhile, pro-establishment lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun, chairman of the Legco’s railways panel, said he had called for a special meeting on subsidence problems in his subcommittee, adding that he had already contacted transport minister Frank Chan Fan and the Buildings Department.

Tien said the orders issued by the department to suspend construction work at To Kwa Wan station had no legal effect because the construction site belonged to the government. This was another loophole in the entrustment agreement between the administration and the MTR Corp, he said.

The lawmaker added that he hoped the special meeting would take place next week, stressing it was necessary to discuss when and how the government should notify the public when problems occurred in the future.

Additional reporting by Kanis Leung