Hong Kong MTR

Leighton managers don’t remember being told workers were cutting corners when building Hong Kong’s most expensive rail link

  • Project manager and site manager deny knowing about 2015 allegations that workers were taking short cuts
  • Pair surprised to learn of non-conformance report for company working on HK$97.1 billion Sha Tin-Central link
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 November, 2018, 11:22am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 November, 2018, 11:22am

Two managers at Leighton Contractors (Asia) have told a commission of inquiry they do not remember hearing about allegations in 2015 of workers cutting corners during the construction of the expanded Hung Hom station.

Answering questions for the panel investigating the issues surrounding the building of the HK$97.1 billion (US$12.4 billion) Sha Tin-Central rail link, the pair also said they did not know about a non-conformance report issued to the subcontractor at the centre of the scandal.

And one of the managers, Ian Rawsthorne, who was a project manager for Leighton until November 2017, said he believed if any defective work had been found it would have been rectified immediately.

Leighton, the main contractor for the project, is embroiled in allegations that workers from subcontractor Fang Sheung Construction cut corners when building a station platform, and that supporting diaphragm walls were changed without proper authorisation.

On Wednesday, Rawsthorne said he had no recollection about the report issued in December 2015 to Fang Sheung, even though his signature is on the bottom.

The report outlined three occasions in which rebar was not fixed into couplers, while some rebar threads had been cut.

“I don’t have a specific recollection of signing this,” Rawsthorne said. “I don’t actually have a recollection of doing it. I truly don’t.”

Neither did he recall whether he had been involved in the decision-making process. Rawsthorne said he believed the report was given to him by a subordinate to sign.

Leighton boss tells inquiry no reason to doubt safety of Hung Hom station

When asked if he was informed about the issue that gave rise to the non-conformance report, he said he could not remember anything about it.

“I’ve signed it previously, but it’s the first time in three years that I’ve seen this document, so I don’t have a recollection of it,” he said.

However, Rawsthorne said photos that showed the defective work were alarming. But, he said he had only been made aware of the report in recent months.

“I’ve come to understand that it was rectified immediately,” he said. “My view is that the inspection was done. It was picked up and rectified. That is the intent of the inspection process – to ensure that we don’t cover up defective work.”

Regarding the internal investigation by Leighton into the allegations made by whistle-blower Jason Poon Chuk-hung, Rawsthorne said he was not interviewed for that.

Poon is managing director of subcontractor China Technology Corporation, which Leighton hired to conduct concreting work for the expanded station platform at Hung Hom.

Rawsthorne said he believed Poon made the allegations because he was trying to negotiate a better deal to settle a payment dispute with Leighton.

Gabriel So, site manager for Leighton, also disputed Poon’s claim he had discussed the alleged malpractice at the site in September 2015.

“I don’t know whether I encountered Jason Poon or not, but I am sure he didn’t discuss the issue of cutting threaded rebars with me,” he said.

He also denied having seen Leighton workers cutting corners during a site inspection with Poon.

“I couldn’t remember meeting Poon that afternoon. I didn’t see anyone cutting rebar,” he said.

So also said he could not remember receiving an email from the MTR Corporation about the non-conformance report in December 2015, despite being one of the listed recipients.

“If I saw it at that time, I would have taken action,” he said. “But, from my recollection I never saw this email. I didn’t even know about this report until about a week ago … No one ever informed me about this.”

The hearing continues.