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Editorial : Interim report on Hung Hom: More confusion created

【明報專訊】THE independent commission of inquiry on the construction problems of Hung Hom station of the Sha Tin-Central Link has submitted an interim report in which it is stated that the diaphragm walls and the platform slabs are safe and the shortening of steel bars was an isolated and sporadic incident. The conclusion of the report jars with what many people think has happened. Whether the platform of Hung Hom station is safe or not, we can only trust the experts. The problem is the experts are not unanimous in their opinions. We should not approach the result of the independent investigation the way a bad loser does. However, what confuses the public is why the construction works are "safe" even though they are plagued with irregularities; what the definition of "safe" is and how we should conceive it; why the commission has reached a conclusion before the inspection of the steel bars is completed.

Every expert adheres to their own opinion about the construction problems of Hung Hom station and the public does not know who to believe. A few years ago, the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link (XRL) Project suffered from delays and serious cost overruns. Justice Michael Hartmann was appointed by the government then to head a commission to conduct an independent investigation. He is familiar with his current task since this is the second time he has taken up this role. While one should not speculate whether the commission is independent and just, the public is definitely filled with doubts about the commission's conclusion that "Hung Hom station is structurally safe".

An examination of the platform at Hung Hom station by opening up the concrete to examine the steel bars is still underway. As for the test on the strength of the couplers conducted by the MTR, there has not been a conclusion yet. It is inevitable that the public wants to know why the commission does not wait for the result of the examination of the steel bars before publishing its report.

Another issue that baffles the public is why the construction works at Hung Hom station are considered safe even though there were so many irregularities. For example, the report quotes an expert witness who thinks that the changes made to the design of the top of the diaphragm walls were better and that the bottom layer of the steel bars of the platform slabs was not necessary. On hearing this, it is natural for the public to ask why these requirements were in the original design. Is the design of the coupler connections "superfluous" or is it an "extra layer of security"? If it is safe even without following the guidelines, why then should the industry abide by the guidelines? The public also wants to know if "structurally safe" means that the loading capacity of the platform is the same as that in the original design, or that it has actually been compromised but there will probably be no accidents under normal circumstances.

According to the MTR senior management, the construction of the platforms of the Sha Tin-Central Link was completed over two years ago, and the trial operation has gone on for a few months. They believe that the overall structure of the platform is safe. However, what the public is concerned about is the long-term safety and durability of the platform. If the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge can withstand 7.0-magnitude earthquakes and the lifespan of the concrete is as long as 120 years, what about Hung Hom station? Apart from safety, integrity and quality are also important to any construction work. It is obvious that Hung Hom station was not built in accordance with specifications of the original design. The government must investigate thoroughly to find out who should be held accountable. According to the interim report, the platform does not need to be strengthened. It is proposed that devices be installed to monitor the extent of the movement of the station. The interim report is probably not enough to ease the misgivings of the public. It takes time to rebuild public confidence. The government and the MTR have to adopt vigorous measures to reinforce public trust.

明報社評2019.03.28:紅磡站調查添困惑 市民信心仍待加固

沙中線紅磡站工程問題,獨立調查委員會提交中期報告,認為連續牆及月台層板建造工程安全、剪鋼筋僅屬個別情況。報告結論顛覆了不少人對事件的理解。紅磡站月台是否安全,只能相信專家,問題是專家意見亦莫衷一是。看待獨立調查結果不應輸打贏要,然而市民感到困惑的是,何解施工多處不符規定卻仍然「安全」、所謂「安全」的定義應當如何理解、為何驗筋未完已可得出結論。

紅磡站工程問題,專家各執一辭,市民也不知道應該相信誰。數年前高鐵工程延誤嚴重超支,當時政府亦是任命夏正民法官,領導委員會獨立調查。今次夏正民重作馮婦,理應駕輕就熟,外界不應對委員會是否獨立公正妄作猜測,然而公眾對於「紅磡站結構安全」確有很多疑惑。

紅磡站月台仍在「鑿石驗筋」,港鐵提交的螺絲帽強度測試亦未有最終結果。市民難免想弄清楚,為何毋須「等埋」驗筋結果。

另一個令市民感到困惑的問題,是紅磡站施工明明有多處不合規格卻仍然安全。例如報告引述專家證人證辭,認為施工期間改動連續牆頂部設計是更好做法,又說月台層板底層鋼筋是不必要。聽了這些說法,公眾難免會問,何解原先設計會有相關要求?原有鋼筋接駁設計究竟是「多此一舉」還是「多一重保障」?如果不按作業指引施工仍然安全,業界何必跟從守則辦事?公眾想弄清楚「結構安全」的定義,是說月台承受能力與原本設計一樣,還是確實有所削弱,只是大抵在一般情況下不會出事。

港鐵高層表示,沙中線月台工程完成已有兩年多,列車測試亦已進行數月,相信整體結構仍是正常,然而外界關注的是月台長遠的安全度和耐用度,若說港珠澳大橋能抵抗7級地震,三合土的壽命長達120年,現在紅磡站又是什麼樣的狀況?工程除了安全,誠信及質量也相當重要,紅磡站工程明顯未按原有設計規格施工,當局必須追究到底。中期報告認為月台毋須加固,建議裝設儀器監測車站移動幅度等,對於回應民情減少疑慮未必足夠。市民信心需要時間重建,政府和港鐵仍須採取有力措施,加固公眾信任。

■Glossary

jar (with sth) : to be different from sth in a strange or unpleasant way

plague sb/sth (with sth) : to cause pain or trouble to sb/sth over a period of time

baffle : to confuse

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