Peter Hansford, former president of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), has been asked to get to the bottom of a complex construction safety scandal that has erupted over a new metro station in Hong Kong.
In May it emerged that in 2015, workers building the concrete slab at the Hung Hom station expansion reportedly had cut off the ends of reinforcing bars that were supposed to be screwed into couplers in the diaphragm wall forming the side of the metro station box.
Concrete was then poured even though the bars were not connected to the couplers. Engineers have expressed doubt over the structural safety of the slab, prompting much debate over liability.
Yesterday Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam launched an official inquiry into into the steel reinforcement fixing works and any other works which raise concerns about public safety, naming Hansford as commissioner.
The client is MTR and the main contractor is Leighton Asia, a unit of CIMIC in Australia.
The $662m (HK$5.2bn) project is part of the Shatin Central Link development.
"Public safety is of paramount importance," said Lam. "A statutory commission equipped with the full range of powers under the Commissions of Inquiry Ordinance (Chapter 86) is called for to ascertain the facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged problems associated with these works and to recommend appropriate improvement measures."
Hansford, a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, has over 40 years of experience in the delivery of major infrastructure projects. He was appointed as Chief Construction Adviser to the UK Government from 2012 to 2015, and is currently Professor of Construction and Infrastructure Policy at University College London.
Chairing the commission is veteran Hong Kong judge Michael John Hartmann, former Non-Permanent Judge of the Court of Final Appeal.
The pair worked together before in Hong Kong, in 2014 examining the project management systems and cost control mechanisms of the MTR Corporation Limited in overseeing the project of the Hong Kong Section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link.
Among other things, Hansford and Hartmann will look into the facts and circumstances surrounding the steel reinforcement fixing works, and ascertain whether the works were executed in accordance with the contract.
Over six months they will also investigate the adequacy of MTR’s project management, supervision and quality control systems.
Image: Hung Hom Station concourse, Hong Kong, 2013 (Wikimedia Commons)