Hong Kong MTR

Hong Kong engineering body concerned whether profession’s integrity was compromised after MTR Corp’s construction scandal at HK$97.1 billion rail line stations

Institution of Civil Engineers expresses concern that professional integrity may have been ‘traded off’ in construction of stations on Sha Tin to Central line

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 July, 2018, 9:32am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 July, 2018, 10:58pm

The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) has expressed concern over whether the profession’s integrity was compromised during the construction scandals that have engulfed Hong Kong’s most expensive rail link.

The Britain-based body told the Post it was worried shoddy work at the HK$97.1 billion (US$12.4 billion) Sha Tin to Central line would affect the safe operation of the line.

“As a professional body, we are concerned about whether professional integrity has been compromised or traded off for whatever reasons,” the Hong Kong branch of ICE said.

“We are also concerned as to whether such acts could have adversely impacted on-site staff, and the subsequent safe operation of the system.”

The institution’s branch in Hong Kong has nearly 6,500 members and is headed by, among others, regional director Eva Kong, who was a manager at Leighton Contractors (Asia) between May 2013 and July 2017.

Leighton is the main contractor at the centre of the scandal, which surrounds work completed at several stations along the line between 2013 and 2016.

Kong, who joined the city’s branch of ICE in September last year, is responsible for delivering the institution’s business plan in Hong Kong, including membership development and raising its profile.

The body raised its concerns as revelations concerning shoddy work and cover-ups during construction at the rail link’s three stations – Hung Hom, To Kwa Wan and Exhibition Centre – have been plaguing the MTR Corporation for weeks, with key questions going unanswered.

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A government-appointed commission of inquiry, headed by former Court of Final Appeal judge Michael Hartmann, along with Professor Peter Hansford, a former ICE president, is to investigate the scandals at the Hung Hom site.

The upcoming investigation will centre on Hung Hom station, where steel bars had been cut short to make it seem as though they had been screwed correctly into couplers on the platform, and some steel bars were found totally unconnected at some joints of the station tunnels.

As the main contractor, Leighton has been accused of engineering the substandard work, but the Australia-based firm has remained silent and refused to attend Legislative Council railways meetings.

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ICE, meanwhile, said the commission was an appropriate venue for investigating the scandal, and appealed to the parties involved to be transparent when it came to addressing public concerns over any potential safety issues.

“We would plead that the parties involved would consider their positions along this direction,” it said.

Admitting some harm had been done to the city’s engineering profession, the institution pledged it would continue to ensure its code of professional conduct was observed by its members all over the world. Any misconduct would see members lose their membership of the institution.

“ICE would be strongly against any construction malpractices that can hamper public safety and the integrity of a project,” it said.

“We trust that openness is the key to see that Hong Kong has upheld its high professional standards and conduct, which are of international repute.”