Frank Chan blames new MTR link delay on protest damageLocal | 6 Dec 2019 1:14 pm
Transport Secretary Frank Chan has blamed anti-government protesters for an expected further delay to the full opening of the MTR’s new Shatin-Central Link.
Speaking at a Legco railways subcommittee meeting, the MTR Corporation said due to widespread damage to the East Rail Line, in particular University Station, the opening of the Hung Hom-Admiralty section of the future link will be further delayed from the fourth quarter of 2021 to the first quarter of 2022.
As for the partial commissioning of the first part of the link – from Tai Wai to Kai Tak – the firm said this section is now undergoing trial runs and it hopes to open it in the first quarter of 2020. The original target of mid-2019 was pushed back by construction delays.
The MTR Corporation said because University Station was trashed by protesters and almost needs to be rebuilt completely, staff who had been engaged in construction work for the new link had to be sent there instead, to carry out emergency checks and repairs.
Despite the dire assessment of the state of the University Station, it is expected to partially re-open before the end of the year.
Chan told lawmakers on Friday that the construction of the HK$99.1 billion Shatin-Central Link had been running at full steam and there would not have been any further delay if it was not for the widespread vandalism along the existing MTR lines.
The link has been plagued by a series of construction scandals, notably substandard work at Hung Hom Station which led to a commission of inquiry that held hearings for months. A final report from the inquiry is expected by March.
Against this backdrop, many lawmakers were sceptical about Chan's claim that the ongoing protests are to blame for an anticipated further delay to the opening date.
Roundtable legislator Michael Tien, for example, said uncertainties surrounding the future Exhibition Centre Station have also played a part, after subsidence was found at the site.
“Exhibition (Centre station) needs to be ready by the middle of 2021. They are trying everything to make sure that that can be done and there seems to be some risks and it’s a challenge. So actually, that is the main cause, rather than the damaged parts of the University Station”, he said.