Hong Kong’s troubled rail operator has promised to disclose subsidence data related to all 10 stations on the HK$97.1 billion Sha Tin-Central rail link project, pro-establishment lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun claimed on Sunday.
This came as an engineering expert warned such data could affect property prices near MTR stations and should be handled carefully.
Tien, who chairs Legislative Council’s railway subcommittee, said on a television programme aired on Sunday that subsidence is not an issue limited to the new To Kwa Wan and Exhibition Centre stations.
“I am sure the eight other stations on the Sha Tin-Central rail link had caused subsidence to nearby buildings,” Tien said.
The MTR Corporation’s rail link is made up of five existing and five new stations.
Since May, the project, which is Hong Kong’s most expensive rail development so far, has been plagued by scandals related to construction work.
The latest subsidence issues were revealed on Thursday, after the departure of four members of MTR Corp’s top brass, including former project manager Philco Wong Nai-keung.
More than 100 complaints but no compensation from MTR Corp for residents affected by sinking building site
The Buildings Department said on Thursday that it had found no structural safety issue in 23 buildings in To Kwa Wan, following media reports that they had sunk beyond statutory limits.
On Friday, the government ordered the rail firm to stop excavation work at the Exhibition Centre station, saying that the “settlement reading of a number of monitoring points had exceeded the highest level”.
Tien said the MTR Corp did not tell him the exact date they will hand over the subsidence data, but said it should only take two to three days to prepare.
He also revealed that the MTR Corp, unlike other developers, is not required to stop work when the subsidence levels of nearby buildings reach the statutory limit of 20 to 25mm.
If the rail firm is required to stop work every time a nearby building hits its subsidence limit, it could drive up the cost of developing the railway network, Tien said.
MTR forced to stop work at Exhibition Centre station on beleaguered Sha Tin-Central Link after more reports of subsidence
Meanwhile, two former presidents of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers also commented on the issue on a radio programme on Sunday.
Greg Wong Chak-yan said the MTR Corp and government has to consider the willingness of landlords before making subsidence data public.
“After you published [the data], will that affect property prices? I think this has to be handled carefully,” Greg Wong said.
Former head of the Geotechnical Engineering Office, Raymond Chan Kin-sek, said there is a public misconception about statutory limits of subsidence brought about by construction work.
“Many people think it is a line separating life and death,” Chan said.
He said the statutory limit of subsidence was “definitely not an indicator of danger”.
When the limit is reached, developers are required to stop construction work and investigate further, he said.
Chan added that subsidence is a common issue, especially with work in older neighbourhoods.
“If someone hands me a report and says there was zero subsidence after excavation, my gut feeling would have been that it was fake,” Chan said.
The MTR Corp on Sunday refused to verify Tien’s claim that it will hand over subsidence data within the next week.
“The data has been given to the relevant government departments,” a firm spokeswoman said.
“We will discuss with the government, and develop an outward reporting mechanism.”