Hong Kong rail operator caught in fresh scandal as new details emerge over substandard work at Sha Tin-Central link stations
MTR Corp admits knowing contractor with HK$4.57 billion deal had ‘deviated from the original design’
The embattled MTR Corporation has been caught up in a fresh scandal over substandard construction work on the Sha Tin-Central rail link – this time at To Kwa Wan station.
Admitting it knew about the issue, which allegedly concerned a wall on the platform level having reinforcement bars removed in April and being “shaved thin”, the rail operator said on Monday it had told the contractor responsible to come up with a plan to rectify their mistake.
The revelation came less than a week after MTR Corp acknowledged a subcontractor had cut corners in the construction of a new platform under the existing Hung Hom station, part of a HK$5.2 billion contract.
This time the work concerned a HK$4.57 billion contract awarded to a joint venture between Hsin Chong Group Holdings and Samsung C&T.
On Monday, HK First lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching, said she was informed of the new issue at the start of June by a “frontline worker” at To Kwa Wan station.
Mo said she was told a wall in the station had became a risk, after workers were instructed to remove a layer of reinforcement bars to make it thinner, bringing it more in line with the original design on the blueprint.
“Half of the reinforcement bars and a third of the cement was removed,” she said.
A photo sent to Mo showed the wall in question next to a staircase leading up from the train platform to the concourse.
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The MTR Corp confirmed on Monday that a wall adjacent to stairs on a platform at To Kwa Wan station had “deviated” from the original design, but that there would be no “safety risk”.
It also said the contractor had been told to give a “full account” of the incident and draw up a rectification proposal.
In the mean time, the MTR Corp said it would conduct a thorough investigation into inspection processes of the contractor, as well as internally.
“If any infringement is identified appropriate disciplinary processes will follow,” it said.
The MTR Corp did not say whether relevant government departments had been informed nor whether it would take action against the contractor.
It also refused to answer whether the opening of the Tuen Ma line, which will connect the existing West Rail and Ma On Shan lines, would be affected.
The HK$4.57 billion contract was awarded to a joint venture between Hsin Chong Group Holdings and Samsung C&T in July 2012.
Hsin Chong Group Holdings is a publicly listed company in Hong Kong.
It was also the sole winner of another HK$300 million contract for “advance work” on the Hung Hom to Admiralty section of the Sha Tin-Central link.
According to Hsin Chong’s website, the contract is for the construction of a 1.6km long railway tunnel and two stops along the link’s Tuen Ma Line – the stations at To Kwa Wan and Sung Wong Toi.
In November last year, the two companies announced that structural work on the two stations had been completed and that workers would move on to fitting out the interiors.
It also said the project had been recognised by the MTR Corp for safety and stakeholder engagement in 2015.
Rail services on the Tuen Ma Line were expected to begin by mid-2019.
The construction firm was also involved in two contracts valued at more than HK$3.6 billion under the express rail link project, one of which involved the terminus in West Kowloon.
Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting questioned whether the MTR Corp was able to monitor all works related to the rail link project.
Tony Tse Wai-chuen of the Architectural, Surveying, Planning and Landscape functional constituency said the recent scandals had caused the public to lose faith in the corporation.
Hsin Chong Group Holdings and Samsung C&T did not provide comment