Hong Kong MTR

More defective construction work found at scandal-hit Hong Kong station as engineering expert expresses fears over its safety

  • University of Hong Kong department head urges government to consider further investigation
  • Substandard installation of steel bars reaches 40 per cent, highest total so far
PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 January, 2019, 8:59pm
UPDATED : Monday, 14 January, 2019, 11:17pm

An engineering expert has expressed fears over the safety of Hung Hom station, testifying before an inquiry panel that further investigation was needed into the platforms at the centre of a scandal involving shoddy construction work.

Professor Francis Au Tat-kwong, department head of civil engineering at the University of Hong Kong, made his comments on Monday at the commission of inquiry into the problems that have plagued the HK$97.1 billion (US$12.4 billion) Sha Tin-Central rail link.

His advice came as the Highways Department released the results of inspections on more reinforcement bars from two sites – the east-west platform for the Tai Wai-Hung Hom section of the new line, and the north-south platform for the Hung Hom-Admiralty section.

Three more bars were found to have been wrongly installed on the east-west platform. So far, 31 of the 77 steel bars checked have been found to be faulty – a substandard rate of 40 per cent.

Of those, 27 were on the east-west platform and four on the north-south platform.

The MTR Corporation is in the process of breaking open at least 80 sections of the two new platforms to determine if their structural safety has been compromised. At least 168 bars will be exposed for inspection, and a final assessment is expected by March.

Au said the results so far highlighted serious concerns about the station’s overall structural safety and the adequacy of oversight by site supervisors for the main contractor, Leighton Contractors (Asia).

“The results reinforce my belief that there is a real need to continue the opening-up process to find out more, because the results are a real concern,” he said.

He pointed out that the discovery of some disconnected bars raised further concerns about the supervision of the work when it was being carried out.

Does MTR need to dismantle entire platform at troubled Hung Hom station?

“It can be easily seen on site,” he said. “Obviously it escaped the attention of staff of various contractors and site supervisors. So, that is a real concern of whether this kind of thing is isolated or is going to happen elsewhere.”

For those defective connections, Au suggested further investigation to test their strength and elongation, adding that there should be further increase in the random sample size.

Despite the high defective rate so far, he believed the problems could be remedied with reinforcement work, subject to more investigation.

“More investigation should be done such as checking of the stresses. But my impression is that even though there are problems, they should be solvable … after doing the necessary strengthening work,” he said.

The hearing continues.