The appointment of a new chief engineer to monitor the construction of the much-delayed and overbudget Hong Kong section of the Express Rail Link passed its first hurdle at the Legislative Council’s establishment subcommittee yesterday.
The proposal to reopen the post in the Railway Development Office of the Highways Department was approved by 20 votes to eight, and will now be submitted to the Finance Committee for final approval.
The four-year job, which will have a salary and staff on-cost of HK$2.27 million a year, will be backdated to December 31 last year, and last until the final day of 2019.
According to the Legco document, the job calls for providing dedicated support and monitoring the completion of the Hong Kong section of the Express Railway Link.
The job was first opened on July 4, 2008, but lapsed last July, as the department failed to obtain the Finance Committee’s approval to retain the post.
A bid by League of Social Democrats lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung to delay the vote by asking for a quorum count was rejected by subcommittee chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee as there were enough lawmakers in the chamber.
People Power’s Raymond Chan Chi-chuen warned the committee to take into consideration the possibility that the link project might be suspended if it fails to get extra funds from the Legislative Council.
However the department has argued that it will be necessary to have that post regardless of whether or not Legco approves the additional funding.
Director of Highways Peter Lau Ka-keung said that if the additional funding were rejected, the chief engineer would have more work to do.
“Once the project has been suspended, there will be lots of temporary work to do to strengthen the structures of existing projects. The chief engineer also needs to handle the influx of claims for compensation [from the contractors],” Lau said.
Democratic Party lawmaker Wu Chi-wai questioned whether members of the government engineering team had done their jobs.
He said there was speculation that they neglected their duties as they failed to warn the government about the delay and the cost overrun of the project.
But the highways director said the engineers had done their jobs, and that the government failed to know about the delay and cost overrun because the MTR Corporation Ltd did not inform it.
Go ahead given for post to monitor over budget Express Rail Link