Tearing up newly built Hung Hom rail platform ‘unavoidable’ to probe construction scandal, Hong Kong minister says
Frank Chan Fan says demolition is the best option to allay public concerns, but comments fuel fears of construction delays on HK$97.1 billion Sha Tin-Central link
Demolishing a newly built platform at Hung Hom railway station will be “unavoidable” if investigators want to get to the bottom of a shoddy construction scandal involving the facility, Hong Kong’s transport minister said on Tuesday.
The comment by Frank Chan Fan fuelled fears that the city’s HK$97.1 billion (US$12.4 billion) Sha Tin-Central link, of which Hung Hom is a part, could face further construction delays.
Sources have said the project would be put back by at least six months if the government followed the recommendations of an independent team of experts appointed to probe the scandal.
The group have called for the platform to be cracked open. Dismantling its slabs would allow investigators to see whether the structure matched its design, Chan said on Tuesday.
“We need to eliminate public doubts. How do we convince society that the actual structure is the same as how it was designed?” he asked. “We think it seems unavoidable that we need to tear up the concrete slabs.”
It would be the “most reliable” way to probe allegations of substandard construction, Chan said.
The scandal first erupted in May when media reports revealed steel bars had been cut short to hide improper installation into couplers on the platform.
Leighton Contractors (Asia), the main firm in charge of the work, has been silent on the issue.
The Sha Tin-Central link is Hong Kong’s most expensive railway project to date. A section linking the rural New Territories with urban Kowloon was expected to open by the middle of next year, and a section crossing Victoria Harbour from Hung Hom to Admiralty by 2021.
Hung Hom station, built in the 1970s, is being modified for the link. Peeling concrete, exposed steel bars and holes in the shape of honeycombs have all been reported at the facility.
The three-member team of engineering troubleshooters appointed by the government have suggested tearing up a part of the platform to examine if the structure inside fully conforms with construction work inspection forms and other documents.
The entire platform covers about 10,000 square metres.
Chan said the MTR had sent a report to the government on how to follow up on the allegations, and officials would make a decision in due course.