7th May 2013
<200 Existing Foundation Piles Removed and $900m Wasted – Unnecessary Work Done at Nam Cheong Station, MTR Orders People in the Know to Remain Silent>
The High-Speed railway route meets MTR’s station in Nam Cheong. Ten years ago, foundation piles were completed at the site to allow housing to be built. However, before these piles could be used, over 200 of them had to be removed for the High-Speed Rail project. This cost a total of HK$900 million (US$116 million)from public funds. The Hong Kong SAR government and MTR are suspected of hiding this incident from the Legislative Council and the public.
One of the contracts for the High-Speed Rail project is the “Nam Cheong building foundation removal and re-laying project”. Amounting to HK$330 million (US$43 million), this contract was one of the first approved (by the government). Based on the documents obtained, this project is to remove over 200 of the existing foundation piles at the Nam Cheong Station site. The project was delayed and went 160% over budget: This, one of the worst contract over-runs of all, currently stands to cost around HK$860 million (US$111 million).
MTR estimated that all of the 200+ foundation piles would be removed by end of May 2013. An engineering industry practitioner said that three of these foundation piles were laid at an angle and could not be removed. The parties involved refused to comment on this matter. However, the contractor that is responsible for the tunnel boring could ask for compensation due to project delay.
Internal MTR documents also showed that the delay in removing the foundation piles would directly cause a delay in the High-Speed Rail’s tunnel boring project between Mei Lai Road and Hoi Ting Road. The source also said that the issue shows that KCR (Kowloon Canton Railway, which is now merged with MTR) made a mistake when they examined and approved the Nam Cheong Station site. Before the construction of the High-Speed Rail project began, MTR failed to do a comprehensive pre-project survey, failed to select the most cost-effective technology and failed to manage the project.
The source explained that removing foundation piles is a very complicated project, “Take H-piles for example, first you need to dig a 3-meter wide hole surrounding the pile as deep as the bottom of the High-Speed railway. Then, you cut the pile and sling the pile from the top, the remaining part of the pile will be buried underground permanently.” The majority of the piles to be removed at the Nam Cheong Station site are H-piles.
Neglecting the Quantity, Gov Suspected to Conceal Facts 無提數量政府疑隱瞞
Another type of piles are “bored piles”, where the contractor drills down to bed-rock and back-fills with concrete, using a tremie pipe. “To remove a bored pile requires the use of explosives. This requires a lot of resources and is a costly job.”
In the documents the Hong Kong SAR government provided to the Legislative Council to apply for funding, there was no mention of needing to remove these piles at Nam Cheong Station. A source from MTR said that MTR has ordered everyone to keep their mouths shut, and has banned its staff from telling the public how many piles had to be removed in order to avoid being accused of wasting public funds. An MTR representative said during an interview with New Civil Engineer, published in January 2013, that only old marine building piles had to be removed from the Nam Cheong Station site.
Wong Kwok-kin, a lawmaker from Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions* who supported the High-Speed Rail project funding, said the Hong Kong SAR government never mentioned the need to remove foundation piles at the Nam Cheong Station site, “no one knew about this. The government should explain to the public”.
Transport and Housing Bureau replied saying that supplementary documents provided to the Legislative Council in November 2009 mentioned about the pile removal, hence the accusation of the government concealing facts is ungrounded. However, looking at the said documents, they only mentioned the need to remove conflicting foundation piles in multiple locations, but didn’t quantify the number of piles that needed to be removed.
In response to enquiries, MTR said that is common for projects to end up being more difficult than expected, and that the pile removal work has been going on smoothly. They expect that the removal process will be completed before the boring machines reach the spot.
A spokesperson for Sun Hung Kai Properties, which bid for the property development project above Nam Cheong Station in 2011, said that the site where piles have been removed and relaid will be used to build a low-rise shopping centre and car parks. According to the bidding document, the site will not be returned to the developer until 2015.
* Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions is seen as a pro-establishment and pro-Peking party. Despite their manifesto, no one from this organisation went to support the HIT dock workers’ strike which started in late March 2013. In fact, the HKFTU voted to abolish the Collective Bargaining Ordinance prior to the 1997 handover.