Reports of poor construction and a cover-up of mismanaged work on expanded platforms at Hung Hom emerged in May 2018. MTR told IRJ when news of the problems broke that a number of construction changes had been made in works on the platform slab at the Hung Hom station extension by the contractor without full documentation and formal submissions to MTR’s project management team. The government was also not informed of the changes.

The $HK 90.7bn ($US 11.7bn) project is the costliest in the history of MTR and was originally scheduled to open in mid-2019. Former MTR CEO Mr Lincoln Leong decided to seek early retirement in light of the problems with the project, while there were a series of related high-profile resignations at the company.

Two years on, the project has been given the green light for completion. MTR says the Sha Tin - Central Link (SCL) is now 93% complete, with the eastern Hung Hom - Admiralty section scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2021. The initial 6.8km Tuen Ma Line from Tai Wai to Hung Hom opened in February.

“The commission is fully satisfied that, with suitable measures in place, the station box structure will be safe and also fit for purpose,” the report says “However, the commission recognised that in a number of respects, in the course of construction of the station box structure, there were unacceptable incidents of poor workmanship on site compounded by lax supervision, and that in a number of respects also, management of the endeavour fell below the standards of reasonable competence.”

As well as MTR and the contractor, the report says the government should be held partly responsible as it had been “the ultimate approver and accepter” of the completed works.

“It was not a passive bystander, it was an active participant,” the report says.

According to local news reports, Hong Kong secretary for transport and housing Mr Frank Chan declined to comment when asked if any parties would be held criminally liable, saying an investigation was still underway. However, Chan did confirm that MTR would bear the additional costs of the remedial work required at Hung Hong, which will be completed by the middle of this year. He also said that the government would establish a government department on railway matters for stringent supervision and safe delivery of future railway projects.

“We are now studying the roles, responsibilities, staffing and structure of the new department in depth, with a view to enhancing the government’s ability in monitoring and controlling the planning and delivery of new railway projects,” Chan said.

MTR CEO Dr Jacob Kam welcomed the findings of the report and said that the commission’s comments and recommendations will be incorporated into continuing efforts to improve project management and quality assurance for delivery of future railway projects.

“With the release of the final report, we are now very focused on bringing the SCL to completion to serve the public,” Kam says.