The MTR Corporation in Hong Kong has released statements from its Chairman and the Chief Executive Officer on the recent delays to the Hong Kong Section of Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link Project. The statements by Dr Raymond Ch’ien Kuo-fung, Chairman of the MTR Corporation, and Mr Jay H Walder, Chief Executive Officer of the MTR Corporation, to the Legislative Council Panel on Transport Subcommittee on Matters Relating to Railways about the Construction and Commissioning of the Express Rail Link project on 5 May 2014 are as follows:
Dr Raymond Ch’ien Kuo-fung:
I would like to thank the Subcommittee for offering us the opportunity to give a clear account on the progress of the XRL project.
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We recognise that the XRL project is important for Hong Kong and I would like to apologise on behalf of MTR for not keeping the public informed in a timely fashion of the challenges confronting the project, and the impact of those challenges on the project completion date.
We are aware of the public’s keen concern about the XRL project and that many questions have been raised by recent developments. Today, Mr Walder and the team will explain the reasons behind the project delay, the lessons learned as well as the mitigation measures implemented to address these challenges. The team has also laid out a realistic plan for opening targeting in 2017.
I wish to emphasize that the team at MTR, together with the project’s contractors, have worked relentlessly and diligently to tackle the challenges that have arisen from almost the beginning onwards and achieved considerable progress.
However, we must acknowledge and apologise for our failings in public communications..
The Board takes this seriously and has put in place a number of measures to deal with the issues that have arisen. Among them is a committee comprising independent non-executive directors, which is responsible for reviewing management of the XRL project and making recommendations to ensure that the Projects Team, the management and the Board can more effectively monitor and drive the project forward.
The Corporation also announced that in the spirit of full openness and transparency, it will set up a central data room specifically for legislators to access the Corporation’s external and internal documents pertaining to the XRL project. The data room is expected to be ready in June 2014 and will remain open until the completion of the project, with documents being updated on a regular basis.A vital point, I wish to thank the thousands of professionals and construction crew members who have toiled day in and day out, often in challenging environments. Our failing in public communication should in no way deprive the community’s appreciation and recognition for them. Nevertheless I am confident these dedicated men and women will continue to rally in a can-do and cooperative spirit to deliver to the Hong Kong community a successful project.
Mr Jay H Walder:
First, I want to apologise. We did not do a good job in communicating with you or with the public about XRL. There are no excuses. We understand our responsibilities for this public project and we let you down. We should have been clearer – not only about the challenges but also about the considerable progress that has been made.
For this meeting, we have submitted to you a full and honest account of all the events that took place up to April 15th, the day we announced that due to the insurmountable challenges, the Express Rail Link opening date regrettably had to be changed to 2017.
Equally important, our report puts forth a clear plan to take this project forward for operation in 2017. It’s realistic and achievable. It’s a plan that all of us at MTR and our contractors stand behind.
Members have asked why we didn’t tell you earlier about the implications of the delays we were experiencing. In hindsight, that’s what we should have done.
Our belief is that all efforts should be made to address problems with a construction project before accepting that it will be delayed. I must say that I have worked in the rail industry for many years, and I have worked with many dedicated people. But I have never seen the strength of commitment and conviction that I see here at MTR to deliver projects on time and on budget.
And it was in this spirit that we approached government with a plan to provide full passenger service and essential facilities in 2015, allowing time after passenger service had started to complete the non-essential features of the project. While they had their doubts, I have to thank the Secretary and his team for giving us the time to try to do it.
We tried hard.We explored every possible solution and every possible alternative to achieve this deadline. Unfortunately, the obstacles were just too great and it became clear in my meeting with the team in April that 2015 was out of reach. Our imperative then was to tell everyone as soon as possible and I immediately called the MTR Chairman and the Secretary for Transport and Housing.
We didn’t want to let the public down, and regrettably, it led us to wait too long in communicating. As CEO, I take responsibility for that in the same way that I take responsibility for everything that happens in the Corporation.
But I don’t think this should take away from the good work that the team has done. From the very beginning XRL has presented serious challenges. Delayed site access, difficult ground conditions, deformed piles and bad weather have all cost us time – some had implications of well over a year.
Instead of using these challenges as excuses to accept delays, we brought in additional resources, tried new methods, adjusted designs and re-sequenced work.
I know that today is about understanding what happened. I stand with my colleagues ready to answer all of your questions – openly, honestly and humbly.
But I also hope that we can look forward to the ways we are going to continue to build this railway. I assure you that every one of us is committed to this project. We know it will not be easy. But we’re confident that we will continue to overcome the challenges to deliver this important new infrastructure for Hong Kong. And we will do so in a spirit of unprecedented openness and transparency, including more substantive reporting to this Subcommittee.