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Hong Kong sewer sinks below planned opening date

HONG KONG'S troubled £250M deep tunnel sewer system is unlikely to be completely finished until 2001 - a year later than estimated and four years after the planned opening date, officials confirmed last week.

The admission followed confirmation that work on two tunnel drives in eastern Hong Kong has now slowed to a crawl after ground settlement of around 250mm was reported on both sides of the harbour.

Briefing local legislators on 4 May, deputy secretary for planning, environment and lands Kim Salkeld said the 25km tunnel network would not now be 'substantially completed' until November 2000, with final completion set for 2001.

'The delay is due to the need to replace a faulty system left behind by the original contractor and by the poor ground condition,' he said.

Latest problems are on the £48M contract to build 10.1km of tunnel being carried out by a joint venture between local contractor Paul Y-ITC Construction and Italian partner Seli. This was awarded in January 1998 and was due to finish by 2000.

A Paul Y-ITC Construction spokesman said: 'There has been settlement of more than 250mm which has slowed us down, but we haven't completely stopped.'

The settlement worried engineers as it was outside the project's 200m wide survey zone. Work has slowed to enable pre-bore grouting to be carried out to prevent settlement reoccurring.

At last week's meeting with legislators, officials admitted that just 15% of the two drives had been built to date. But engineering sources later pointed out that of this 11% was constructed by the Campenon Bernard/Maeda joint venture before it was removed from the job in December 1997.

CBM had contracts to build the entire system but was sacked after it claimed ingress of water made it dangerous and impossible to continue. This dispute is to go to arbitration.

The Drainage Services Department retendered the project as three contracts. The other two, worth £29M and £48M, were awarded to Skanska International Civil Engineering and Kvaerner subsidiary Gammon Construction.

Costs have soared since. Salkeld was briefing legislators in an attempt to win £8M in extra funding on top of £12M sought last year for additional design and supervision costs.

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