'All powers' for top judge in link probe

Top News | Charlotte Luo 13 Jun 2018

A top judge will be given "all necessary powers" to investigate the steel-bar saga engulfing construction of the Hung Hom Station of the Sha Tin to Central Link, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor says while announcing the establishment of a high-level commission of inquiry.

Justice Michael Hartmann, a former Court of Final Appeal judge, will head the commission.

Hartmann chaired the independent expert panel set up by the government in 2014 that looked into the delay in the SAR section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link.

Details regarding the investigation and the composition of the committee are needed before they are officially approved by the Executive Council.

"We hope the commission can submit its report in about six months from the start of its work so the truth can be established as soon as possible," Lam said.

She added it should examine the cause and assess the extent of the problems.

"The commission should also review the works supervision system of the MTR Corporation, as well as the mechanism under which the government monitors and controls such works, with a view to making recommendations to safeguard the quality of works as well as safety."

The commission was formed under the Commissions of Inquiry Ordinance. It will have "all the necessary powers to obtain information to summon witnesses and also to ask for disclosure of documents," Lam said.

She added the commission could be comprised by one person or more, with Hartmann the chairman if it has more than one member.

Asked if the commission will also look into MTR Corp's other scandal - a 30-meter-long wall at To Kwa Wan Station was shaved thinner than planned - Lam said that is completely different and would put the panel "out of focus."

She hopes the commission will focus on the steel-bar problem, but added this does not mean she is not concerned with other construction problems.

"Our Transport and Housing Bureau and the office at the Highways Department, which supervises MTR construction works, are following up on this issue," she said. On this, the Highways Department said it has instructed MTR Corp - which said the wall was not built according to the blue print - to explain the reasons that caused the incident as well as a plan to fix it.

MTR Corp said its board of directors welcomes the move and "has instructed management to fully cooperate with the commission."

It will submit a report to the government before the end of this week as agreed earlier, including details of the construction of the steel-bar fixing works for the platform slab at Hung Hom station. The report will be made available to the public.

Lawmaker Priscilla Leung Mei-fun said the probe should look into all safety concerns at the Sha Tin-Central Link.

Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting said the government should not limit the scope of the probe, lest the public fails to get a full picture of whether the project has a big problem or not.

Carrie Lam, meanwhile, said MTR Corp chairman Frederick Ma Si-hang has worked hard in the past three years after she was asked if he would be reappointed before his contract expires at the end of the year. She said that while Ma is chairman, he is not expected to know every minute detail of the construction work.

Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan Suk-chong has called on Ma to step down over the scandals.


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