Hong Kong MTR

First bars inspected in MTR’s Sha Tin-Central line shoddy work probe found to be substandard

  • Lawmaker Michael Tien says insider told him first steel bars selected at random for testing had come up short – results he called ‘alarming’
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 December, 2018, 9:48pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 December, 2018, 11:23pm

The first three steel bars inspected by Hong Kong’s rail operator in a probe into a shoddy construction scandal at Hung Hom station have been found to be substandard, according to lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun.

The former railways boss said an insider on the job had told him three bars randomly selected as the first for testing had been erroneously shortened and were not properly screwed into couplers as required.

The investigation is seeking to get to the bottom of allegations about substandard construction on station platforms for Hong Kong’s costliest ever rail link, the Sha Tin-Central line.

The MTR Corporation is in the process of breaking open at least 80 sections of platform at the station for the HK$97.1 billion (US$12.4 billion) link, to see if structural safety has been compromised.

Tien, a former chairman of the now-defunct Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation, called the initial results “alarming”.

“As far as I was told, MTR staff used ultrasonic machines to detect the length of the bars, and they found that all three were not fully screwed into the couplers, with a gap of about 10mm,” Tien said. “In other words, somebody cut short these bars.”

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The probe has been prompted by a scandal that blew up in May in which the MTR Corp was hit by allegations that steel bars had been cut to imitate proper installation into couplers, and that the structure of supporting diaphragm walls had been changed without authorisation.

The rail operator is now in the early stages of breaking open at least 24 sections along a 400-metre platform for the Tai Wai to Hung Hom line.

Investigators will check if the bars connecting platform surface slabs to the diaphragm walls are consistent with amended design drawings from the main engineers on the project, Leighton Contractors (Asia).

Another 56 sections on both the two platforms – 28 on each – will also be cracked open to expose at least 168 coupler connections linking to the bars.

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A source confirmed that about 10 locations had already been dug up and three steel bars had been found 10mm to 15mm short of the required 44mm length.

“So far only three samples have been inspected so it is still too early to say if the rate of substandard work is serious,” the source said.

The Transport and Housing Bureau confirmed that the initial results showed the three bars were substandard with their thread length into the couplers measuring 29mm for one bar and 34mm for the other two, falling short of the 44mm requirement.