MTR Corp begins breaking open platforms at rail station linked to Hong Kong construction scandal
- Experts, officials and police descend on Hung Hom station for work that is expected to take several months
- Safety fears surround move for part of city’s most expensive rail project, the HK$97.1 billion Sha Tin-Central link
Experts, officials and police officers arrived at Hung Hom station on Monday morning and began to break open two platforms as part of the investigation into allegations that workers had cut corners during the construction process.
The building work on Hong Kong’s most expensive rail project, the HK$97.1 billion (US$12.4 billion) Sha Tin-Central link, is the subject of a commission of inquiry and has been the focus of much speculation since the scandal broke in May.
Representatives from the MTR Corporation, the Highways Department and the Buildings Department went to the construction site at about 7am. A police source told the Post officers would collect information at the platforms and send the materials to a government laboratory to be examined.
“Police were called in to investigate a faulty work scandal and alleged fake inspection records earlier this year,” the source said. “It is important for us to get to the scene to collect relevant materials to proceed with the probe.
“As the main contractor [Leighton Construction (Asia)] was accused of instructing a subcontractor to cut corners, we need to see inside the platform in the presence of professionals. Police officers cannot just go and dig up the platform as we have no such technical knowledge.”
In all, officials plan to break open 80 separate sections of the platforms at the expanded station.
The government announced last Wednesday that it had accepted the rail operator’s revised “holistic assessment strategy” for assessing the structural integrity of the platform slabs and diaphragm walls.
Lawmaker and former railway boss Michael Tien Puk-sun said about 10 teams would start the work and smash open 24 fixed locations to begin with.
Each spot is expected to take a team about 10 days to complete, he added. He expected the whole process to take two to three months to finish.
“I relied much on the three experts appointed by the government. I hope the trio can monitor the work of around three to four teams each day,” Tien said on a radio show on Monday. “It is important that the teams dig at the correct locations.”
Tien said he was told that samples would be collected from not only the upper and lower slabs of the newly built platforms, but also from the middle, or the core, of the platforms.
The overhaul was prompted by a construction scandal that blew up in May, when the MTR Corp was hit by allegations that steel bars had been improperly installed in the platform, while the design of diaphragm walls had been changed without government approval.
The first part of a three-stage investigation has already been completed, with a review of design drawings that were amended and the work records consolidated during construction.
The second stage requires the breaking open of the two platforms in two parts, the first of which involves at least 24 sections along the east-west platform.
Investigators will check if the steel bars connecting the platform slab to the diaphragm walls at each section, measuring 250mm by 250mm, are consistent with the amended drawings from Leighton.
The next part involves cracking open another 56 sections on both platforms – 28 on each, all measuring 400mm by 500mm individually – to examine coupler connections. In total, that will expose a minimum of 168 bar-coupler connections for scrutiny.
In the third and final stage of the investigation, the MTR Corp will consolidate test results and other construction issues, and conduct a detailed structural analysis of the station works to decide if any action needs to be taken.