Further delays ‘very likely’ for Sha Tin-Central Link, Hong Kong transport chief says as more flaws surface at Hung Hom stop
Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan says officials are waiting for more information from the MTR Corp over honeycomb holes in concrete, with ‘deception’ and ‘cover-ups’ over work suspected
The launch of the scandal-plagued Sha Tin to Central link would “very likely” be further delayed until the project was cleared of safety concerns, Hong Kong’s transport chief said on Friday as more flaws were revealed in the city’s costliest rail development.
The comments by Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan came as peeling concrete and holes in the shape of honeycombs were uncovered in a platform at Hung Hom station. Steel bars embedded in the concrete were also exposed.
In May, shoddy works involving shortened steel bars were identified at the troubled station on the HK$97.1 billion (US$12.4 billion) line.
“If we can’t get hold of construction details from the MTR Corporation, we expect there will be delays to the Sha Tin-Central Link,” Chan said. “We will only consider opening the rail link when we can ensure safety. Therefore launching it is not our focus at the moment.”
The minister insisted he would only decide whether to dismantle part of the platform slab for thorough checks if there was enough information from the rail giant.
“We are still waiting for these details,” he added. “We are of the view that there is likely to be deception and hiding of facts over the matter.”
At a Legislative Council transport panel meeting on Friday, officials revealed that three days earlier, the MTR Corp informed them about the honeycomb problems on the concrete surface. The holes were 10cm deep and some of the depressions stretched several square metres.
The problems were detected at the bottom of three platform zones at Hung Hom station, along with peeling concrete and exposed steel bars. Three reports of non-compliance were issued to contractor Leighton Contractors (Asia) between August 17 and 22.
Deputy Director of Buildings Yu Tak-cheung said during a site visit on Wednesday they saw problems similar to the ones described.
“For the moment we haven’t found any structural risks,” he noted. “We have already demanded that the MTR Corp dispatch a suitable person to conduct checks in one week and submit a report within two weeks on the outcome and remedial methods.”
Yu added that staff would be deployed to conduct weekly checks on the area concerned.
Acting director of highways Jimmy Chan Pai-ming said authorities had demanded that the rail giant address whether the flaws posed a danger to workers.
Before a series of scandals hit the rail project, the government initially planned for the New Territories to Kowloon section of the link to be ready by mid-2019, and the cross-harbour section, which links Hung Hom to Admiralty, to launch in 2021.
The construction woes prompted the government to demand heads roll among those in charge of the project. Police were also called in to investigate “huge discrepancies” and “conflicting reports” about what went wrong with work on the Hung Hom station platform, involving cut steel bars and diaphragm walls.
A judge-led commission of inquiry and a three-member expert panel would also conduct separate investigations.
Meanwhile, at a Legco railway subcommittee special meeting, officials and MTR Corp representatives were accused of “moving the goalposts” on the subsidence issue plaguing two future stations – Exhibition Centre and To Kwa Wan – on the Sha Tin-Central Link.
According to government documents, 49 out of 335 monitoring points had sunk further than was acceptable – also known as “trigger values” – requiring further investigation.
Lawmakers slammed the government for allowing the MTR Corp to approve revisions in trigger values.
This came as officials admitted the original trigger value for subsidence at Tin Wing light rail stop in Yuen Long was 2cm, but revised to 8cm over the years. According to documents, the site had sunk 9cm as of this month.
Humphrey Ho Hon-kit, assistant director of the Buildings Department, said all revisions were done after detailed engineering analysis.
On August 10, excavation works at the Exhibition Centre site were suspended after subsidence recorded by “a number of monitoring points had exceeded the highest level”.