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Hong Kong MTR

Boss of subcontractor on Hong Kong’s Sha Tin-Central rail link refutes ‘insulting’ suggestion that workers would be told to cut corners

  • Pun Wai-shan, proprietor of Fang Sheung Construction, tells scandal inquiry nobody will issue instructions to cut steel bars under false pretences
  • Strongly denies his firm was involved in cutting corners on Sha Tin-Central rail link
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 November, 2018, 9:59pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 November, 2018, 10:55pm

One of the firms at the centre of a construction scandal involving the city’s most expensive rail project has strongly dismissed the possibility of bosses from any company issuing orders to cut corners, saying to do so would be an “insult” to the industry in Hong Kong.

The denial on Tuesday by Pun Wai-shan, proprietor of subcontractor Fang Sheung Construction, came as he gave evidence for the first time at the commission of inquiry into shoddy work on the HK$97.1 billion (US$12.3 billion) Sha Tin-Central link.

Fang Sheung was hired by main contractor Leighton Contractors (Asia) to install steel reinforcement bars, or rebars, at Hung Hom station. The firm derived about 85 per cent of its turnover from bar-fixing work for Leighton over the past five years.

Leighton is also embroiled in the allegations that steel bars were cut short to fake proper installation into couplers on the station platform, and that supporting diaphragm walls were changed without authorisation.

Cash was offered to silence me on shoddy rail work, whistle-blower says

Pun said his firm’s responsibility was only to install the threaded bars into the couplers both on the diaphragm walls and platform.

He added if the couplers were found damaged during concrete blasting – a procedure to clear concrete from inside and around the couplers – his foreman Joe Cheung would ask Leighton to fix the problems before installation of rebars into couplers continued.

He said the remedial work, including replacement of couplers, would usually be done on the day.

Pun, emphasising that it was his foreman who was in charge of work, said Cheung had never spoken of Leighton bosses asking his workers to cut threaded rebars to fake installation.

Neither had Pun seen such acts despite his frequent visits to the site.

“I can tell you definitely no. Nobody would issue orders to cut the thread of rebars. This is illegal,” he said.

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“Nobody in Hong Kong’s construction industry would issue instructions to cut rebars under false pretences. This would be an insult to the industry in Hong Kong.

“I think most of the construction bosses and workers won’t cut corners or conduct fraudulent work simply out of convenience or their personal interest.

“The majority of them won’t instruct workers to do that.”

However, his firm received a non-conformance report from rail operator MTR Corporation in December 2015 in regard to three to five occasions on which rebars were not fixed into couplers and some threads had been cut.

Pun said when he became aware of the warning, immediate remedial work had already been done on site.

“I also reminded my foreman to warn our workers that this bar cutting would never happen again … We warned that if any workers were found cutting the rebars again they would be sacked immediately,” he said.

He believed the report arose out of “shoddy or negligent workmanship” rather than through dishonest acts.

On being presented with photos seemingly showing workers using a machine to cut rebars, Pun denied they were hired by his firm. He said his workers’ clothes were usually dirty and they never wore long-sleeved uniforms like those in the photos.

Since Fang Sheung was the only firm responsible for bar-fixing on site, inquiry chairman Michael Hartmann, a former non-permanent judge on Hong Kong’s top court, asked Pun whose workers they were if not his.

“I can’t tell whose worker it is … I don’t understand it either,” he replied.

The hearing continues.