On Wednesday the 6th of July, the Singaporean government publicly disclosed details about 26 defective China-made subway trains, though it appears that those details were already known to some.
While the MTR Corporation in Hong Kong as well as the Secretary of Transportation and Housing Anthony Cheung Bing-Leung both denied knowledge of the faulty Singaporean trains, internal documents revealed by a whistleblower now show that they knew of the defects, yet still awarded a contract for subway trains to Qingdao-based CSR Sifang.
At a press conference yesterday, FactWire questioned whether the Transportation Minister was aware of the cracks found in the Singaporean train some three years ago. He replied: “No, we were not aware of what was happening in Singapore. Indeed, why should Singapore inform Hong Kong about this?”
Well, it turns out that starting from January 30th, 2015, about half a year before the Hong Kong MTR contract was awarded to CSR Sifang, a concerned party sent emails to the Transportation and Housing Bureau, regarding the “Singapore C151A train underframe sub-floor cracking problem.” The email reads in part:
Thousands of brackets had been added to the relevant areas, as a temporary measure to ensure the safety integrity of the underframe sub-floor member to prevent the equipment from falling down onto the track.
On February 5th, 2015, the Bureau replied to the emails, stating that they were in the process of an inquiry.
After this information was revealed, Cheung admitted that his office had received the emails, but he emphasized that he has never read them himself.
SCMP reports that Hong Kong’s MTR Corporation, the rail operator, also said that it knew about the cracks in the Singaporean trains, all the way back in 2014.
“We immediately inquired with the Singapore authorities. We were told that the problems would not affect the trains’ safety operation, and that CSR Sifang would conduct follow-ups on the faulty trains,” the MTR Corp said.
The emails also alleged that the formal procedures of tendering train contracts were bypassed. For the previous contracts, from 2007 to 2012, the tender length was around 14 months, but the CSR Sifang tender time was just 9 months.
CSR Sifang rejected these allegations, but interestingly a Bureau spokesperon said that the company had failed to provide them with certain information. Either way, they still awarded the 6 billion HKD contract to them for 93 new urban trains in July of last year.
When the trains in Hong Kong are put into service, they will make up of 70% of all urban line trains, according to MTR Corporation’s 2015 business overview.
MTR Corp and Anthony Cheung have both stepped up to assure the public about the trains’ safety, emphasizing that the Hong Kong trains will be made out of stainless steel material, not aluminum alloy.
Cheung said, “I am asking my colleagues to find out whether there was any follow-up after they received the emails, or if they had followed it up with the MTR Corp. I will disclose the findings later.”
In addition to Hong Kong and Singapore, Quartz reports that the Chicago Transit Board and Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority both awarded contracts to CSR Sifang. Though they haven’t received any trains yet.
HK govt’ was warned about defective Singaporean trains, ordered from Chinese manufacturer anyway