Government admits schedule is ‘very tight’
Macau’s troubled showcase Light Rail Transit system could be at least three years late as the project descends into a dispute over additional costs and delays between the government and its contractors.
One of Macau’s leading contractors, Top Builders International, was quoted in the local Macau Chinese press as blaming bad management and procrastination by the Macau government for delays.
In a press briefing called by the Macau Construction Association last Friday, Top Builders project director Ip Kin-wa said one third of the contract period for the rail depot that the company was taking part in had lapsed but only one percent of the work had been done
Top Builders is in a joint venture with Mei Cheong Construction for the contract C385 rail depot superstructure project worth 555 million MOP.
Ip estimated that the schedule for the depot was already seven months behind.
One serious point of contention was whether the soil bearing capacity at the depot was adequate with the government dithering over the potential costs of remedial work for the ground conditions.
Apparently the Macau government had been advised by a consultant to do rectify the ground problems but has not done so.
Top Builders reckoned the delay for the Taipa section could be late by two to three years if the government continued to do nothing.
The trade association estimated that five different parts on the Taipa section of the LRT were between seven and 11 months late.
Other areas of concern were the late handover of half the site for the transport interchange and a dispute over the wording regarding the service life of concrete to be used on the rail depot.
The government is demanding concrete with a service life of 100 years whereas the contract called only for a concrete structure with design life of 100 years.
Apart from contract C385 mentioned above, the other four contracts are: C350 Taipa city section being built by a China Railway Construction joint venture; C360 Cotai city section being built by a joint venture of Continental Engineering Corporation, Top Builders International and Ng Kam Kee; C370 Taipa port section being built by a Zhen Hwa Harbour joint venture and a transport interchange near the Macau Jockey Club being built by Top Builders International.
The deputy director of the Transportation Infrastructure office André Sales Ritchie confirmed yesterday on a Macau radio programme that the project could be late by six months and that contractors on the LRT had been paid small amounts for extra work.
He insisted 2015 was still the target for opening of the LRT.
Last Friday, a press release by the office said the conditions were still there to recover progress on the works.
“In fact, apart from an individual contractor, other LTR contractors are going all out to recover progress with an active attitude,” the office said.
At the start of this month, the office issued a press statement saying a contractor working on the Taipa section of the LRT was fined 180,000 MOP according to the contract for not fulfilling the responsibilities of the contract and “affected progress of the works”.
The office said that due to inclement weather and difficult underground factors along the planned route, “the progress of the works at present was very tight”.
“The Transportation Infrastructure Office is closely following the situation, and if the contractors do not fulfill their responsibilities and affect construction work, it will manage them in accordance with the contract,” the earlier press statement said.
The LRT project came under fire before main railway construction started last year when, in 2011, the government revised the estimated cost from 7.5 billion MOP to 11 billion MOP (about HK$11 billion).