The chairman of the MTR Corporation, Frederick Ma Si-hang, said today that the railway will inspect its entire Sha Tin-to-Central link amid allegations of dangerous corner-cutting, even as the company released a report affirming that all construction works at Hung Hom station were done “in strict accordance” with requirements.
The report – tabled to the government – confirms that MTR inspectors found on five occasions between August and December 2015, that the ends of some steel bars used to secure a large platform were cut off, in an apparent effort to make it appear like they were properly screwed in to couplers.
The main contractor, Leighton, launched an investigation in January this year after one of its sub-contractors, China Technology, alerted it to alleged ‘malpractice.’
The inquiry, lead by Leighton’s head of engineering, concluded that “the construction and checking process had been carried out in accordance with the approved method statement and the inspection and test plan.”
Based on this report, the MTR Corporation said it also concluded that “the issue had been dealt with.”
The railway added that Leighton has confirmed in writing earlier this week that “the works on the Hung Hom Station and Stabling Sidings project were undertaken in strict accordance with its quality systems and the specifications of the contract.”
The MTR added that it too complied with its requirements in the monitoring of the project.
However, the report also notes discrepancies in the accounts given by different site staff – saying for example, that one worker reported seeing that three improperly-cut steel bars had not been fixed even after Leighton had been alerted to the problem.
The railway noted that this worker’s recollection differs from that of other site staff; and added that the works in question were carried out some two to three years ago.
The report also noted that an interview of a worker from China Technology contradict assurances given to the rail firm by the main contractor. However, it refused to give any details of the allegation, with an MTR source saying it received legal advice not to disclose the information. However, it has forwarded the details to the government, and says a government-appointed Commission of Inquiry is better positioned to deal with the matter.
The report did say that Leighton has strenuously denied the allegations, and the MTR has not seen any evidence which substantiates the claims.
Separately, Leighton staff told the MTR in interviews this week that they had “no direct knowledge of threaded steel bars being cut and/or not screwed into couplers on site.”
But representatives from subcontractor Fang Sheung appeared to contradict this, saying Leighton asked them on some occasions to cut the threaded steel bars “to meet the required length.”
The report quoted them as saying that “on other occasions and as requested by Leighton, the threaded steel bars could be cut and screwed into the couplers with the understanding that rectification measures would be carried out by Leighton.” The vague wording leaves it unclear whether such this practice refers to the improperly cut steel bars.
Speaking to reporters before the report was released, Frederick Ma said he was “very concerned about the incident, and have instructed the corporation’s management to carefully inspect the entire Sha Tin to Central Link project to see if there’s any other violation.”
“We will not tolerate any violation or shelter any fault”, he added.” There’s no question that safety and construction quality must always be ensured.”
Ma also said it is evident that there is room for improvement in the MTRC reporting mechanism, and has instructed management to make improvements as soon as possible.
When asked how the company will follow up on the issue, MTR sources said the railway has done its job, and that a government-appointed independent commission will have more power to investigate the incident than the MTRC itself.-Photo: RTHK