Transparency vital in railway safety

2018-06-07 09:32:44
Summary:Last week's revelation of serious irregularities involving construction of platforms at Hung Hom Station for th...
Last week's revelation of serious irregularities involving construction of platforms at Hung Hom Station for the HK$97.1-billion Sha Tin to Central Link project has not only sparked a media frenzy but also aroused great public concern.

This is completely understandable. The project in question is one of the largest infrastructure facilities the city has ever built. It will be a backbone rail link in the city when completed and put into service. What is at stake is the safety of thousands of passengers as well as Hong Kong's international image as a city with top-quality infrastructure.

MTR Corporation, the manager of the rail link project, is trying to ease public concerns over the reported substandard work done by a subcontractor at the platform of Hung Hom Station, assuring that platform safety hasn't been compromised.

Conceivably, safety concerns would not die down until all facts have come out and all doubts have been cleared. The MTR is obliged to undertake a thorough check to determine the seriousness of the problem and implement appropriate rectification measures. The management of the rail operator has commissioned a third-party expert to conduct safety tests on the platforms in question. This is a right move and a positive response to public demands.

MTR has so far sidestepped questions about who is responsible for the questionable and substandard work. It promised to submit a report to the government. Pending details of substandard work, there is no way we can now tell who is guilty of construction malpractice. But MTR can in no way deny its share of the blame for construction irregularities.

The rail operator admitted last week that a subcontractor had on five occasions produced substandard work for platforms at Hung Hom Station from August to December 2015, with workers cutting steel bars short to make it seem as though they had been screwed correctly into the coupler. This has raised a valid question: Why didn't MTR take effective measures to stop such practices after its field inspectors discovered the irregularity the first time? Subsequent cases of construction irregularity could have been prevented should effective measures have been taken after the first discovery of such a practice.

The public have rightly paid great attention to the incident. After all, safety is a matter of great significance. Unfortunately, some Legislative Council members from the opposition camp are attempting to take advantage of the incident and use it as an excuse to filibuster the proposed legislation on the co-location arrangement for the West Kowloon Station of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, which is supported by a majority of residents. They are virtually telling Hong Kong people once again that they would pursue their political agenda by hook or by crook, without regard to public will.

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