The fall from grace of Hong Kong's MTR: a timeline of events in the Sha Tin-Central rail link scandal


Hong Kong’s rail operator has seen a week of turbulence, with an unprecedented management reshuffle after the government – its majority shareholder – demanded that heads roll for the scandal involving the city’s costliest rail project.

Over the past two months, news of substandard work on the HK$97.1 billion (US$12 billion) Sha Tin to Central link almost derailed the MTR Corporation’s reputation as one of the world’s largest and most profitable rail companies.

We look back on the series of events:

May 31

The MTR Corp confirms that a subcontractor cut corners on a key part of the project. The rail giant gives assurance that problems have been rectified and will not affect the construction timeline.

June 6

The MTR Corp says it is unclear who is responsible for the shoddy work. It vows to take legal action against any party involved in fraud over documentations of the works. Chairman Frederick Ma Si-hang says more time is needed to submit a report on the problems to the government.

June 12

Leaked photos show workers in uniforms of Leighton Contractors (Asia), the main contractor on the site in question, shortening steel bars to fit couplers at platforms for the expanded Hung Hom station along the rail link.

June 17

The MTR Corp plunges into deeper controversy as it faces accusations of insufficient ground support at Exhibition Centre station, another stop along the line. The company suspends excavation works at the site.

June 21

The board of the operator comes down hard on managers, ordering them to review the entire reporting and supervision mechanism for safety lapses. It also says it will engage an external consultant to review the problems.

Aug 7

Heads roll as the government expresses its loss of faith in those in charge of the project. The company announces the exit of four managers and the early departure of CEO Lincoln Leong Kwok-kuen. Officials say they found “huge discrepancies” in the rail giant’s two reports on the project.

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