Fresh blow for MTR after site pipe leaks exposed

Top News | Charlotte Luo 10 Aug 2018

MTR Corp Ltd has continued with construction work at To Kwa Wan Station in the Sha Tin to Central Rail Link despite gas leakages from some pipes.

According to Towngas, the leakages were from four pipelines in the area that had subsided to a more than acceptable level. There was also one minor gas leak.

It said MTRCL had been providing data on site subsidence since 2014. Towngas first learned of a pipe subsidence exceeding acceptable levels in 2016.

Two pipes had been replaced with a polyethylene pipe, which can improve the resistance for the soil subsidence. Another affected pipe was made of polyethylene, so no replacement was needed. The remaining pipe has been isolated because no gas is being used.

Since the beginning of 2016, Towngas has been carrying out daily inspections. A minor gas leak was found from the connection point of pipes and was replaced. Towngas said the gas pipes are in safe condition and the public does not need to worry.

Some 23 buildings around the To Kwa Wan Station were reportedly subsiding. BMW House has sunk the most, by 62.9 millimeters, since monitoring began in 2015. Gas company Shell operates a gas station at BMW House.

A spokeswoman said the subsidence has not caused any impact on their operations - at least for now. Residents in the area said cracks have appeared in their walls as well as on Ma Tau Wai Road.

Engineer Ngai Hok-yan said MTRCL continued the excavation in 2016 without taking any remedial measures. Ngai said he saw an internal consultancy report that showed the safety limit for subsidence had been increased.

He said the rail corporation had ignored the Buildings Department's request to reinforce nearby buildings. MTRCL was actually granted an exemption for building the rail link, making it unnecessary for it to gain approval from the department for its action.

But MTRCL's managing director for operations and mainland China business, Jacob Kam Chak-pui, said subsidence is a common physical phenomenon that can be caused by foundation works, including piling, drilling, excavation and tunneling.

Kam, speaking at the corporation's release of interim results, said there are requirements mandating the company to take action if the subsidence exceeds certain limits.

MTRCL chief executive Lincoln Leong Kwok-kuen said the Sha Tin to Central Rail Link project had completed 86 percent of its work as of the end of June.

Leong said the structural engineering of all new stations in the Tai Wai to Hung Hom section has been substantially completed. The targeted completion date depends on the relevant verification and safety test work progress and results of the platform at Hung Hom Station. For the Hung Hom to Admiralty section, the targeted completion date is still 2021.

One of the three former government officials appointed as consultants to oversee the link, Lau Ching-kwong, who was the former director of the Civil Engineering Department, said he supported the idea to crack open walls at Hung Hom Station to check if it is structurally sound.

Meanwhile, MTRCL revealed it has not prepared for provision, an amount that is put aside for a future plausible costs or obligation, for the Sha Tin to Central Rail Link and the express rail link.

MTRCL said the government has to bear all the relevant costs for the Sha Tin to Central link.

As for the express rail, which is expected to begin operations in September, the corporation said it is responsible for any possible liability or further over-expenditure. The ultimate project cost will be determined when all contracts are finalized.

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