Transport and logistics

Central-Wan Chai Bypass to open as scheduled despite cracks in tunnel ceiling, Hong Kong transport chief Frank Chan says

  • Minister insists cracks and damp patches nothing to worry about
PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 January, 2019, 10:20am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 January, 2019, 1:08pm

Hong Kong’s transport minister denied on Sunday that a HK$36 billion bypass in the heart of the city was not ready to open this month, after photos showed cracks in the ceiling of its underwater tunnel.

Frank Chan Fan said the Central-Wan Chai Bypass would be open to traffic on January 20, as planned. The 4.5km link – nearly finished after 10 years of construction plagued by delays and cost overruns – comprises a flyover in Central and the 3.7km tunnel.

On Sunday, the bypass was open to about 20,000 people taking part in the Community Chest’s 50th Anniversary Walk for Millions, a charity event. Photos emerged of what appeared to be cracks and damp patches on its ceiling.

But Chan insisted the tunnel was safe, saying two layers of fire-resistant paint more than 3cm thick had been applied to the ceiling.

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“The so-called cracks on the ceiling is basically just the fire-resistant paint, because we needed to spray the paint there twice,” he said.

“During the process of the spraying, there was the process of thermal expansion and contraction [causing cracks]. There was also the drying process. That’s why you would see what appeared to be water stains.”

The minister added that the tunnel was built under water, and so there were bound to be problems with slight water seepage, because concrete is not totally waterproof.

The bypass is expected to cut travelling time between Central and the Island Eastern Corridor from about half an hour to five minutes, and divert traffic from other parts of the city. Authorities said a faster journey could also mean less carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles.

Meanwhile, Chan was also grilled on the HK$97.1 billion Sha Tin-Central link, which has been mired in controversy for months, due to shoddy work.

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Its operator, the MTR Corporation, has so far inspected 39 steel bars, finding 12 of them not up to safety standards because they were not screwed properly into couplers.

The government previously said at least 168 couplers would be examined. But Chan said on Sunday that more could be looked at “if we find that the situation is not ideal”.