Labour shortages, tunneling problems and unexpected steel fabrication complexities have seriously delayed and added £2.5bn to the cost of Hong Kong’s high speed rail link to mainland China.
Details of the setbacks emerged in a report released to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council this week by metro operator MTR Corporation, which is in charge of the project.
MTR said the cost of the 26km line and its Kowloon terminus was now estimated to be HK$85.3bn (£7bn), compared to the original budget of £5.5bn set in 2010.
The project is now expected to finish in the third quarter of 2018, three years later than originally planned.
The line runs in a mixture of drill and blast, bored, and cut and cover tunnel from densely populated Kowloon to Hong Kong’s border with China.
The 15-platform terminus is being constructed below ground level and occupies a huge 11ha footprint within a 1.6km diaphragm wall, close to Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour.
MTR said unforeseen heavy clay in soft ground close to the Chinese border and “inconsistent performance of the tunnel boring machines” had caused delays on that section of the project.
High wage costs and labour shortages across Hong Kong, where a major infrastructure boom is in full swing, further added to delays and cost increases across the project.
“The acute labour shortage remains a major contributor to the low production rates,” said the MTR report. This has caused particular problems on one of the drill and blast tunnel contracts where work on the lining has had to slow down.
Steelwork for the terminus entrance has also suffered. “The steelwork fabrication … is highly complicated and serious delays have been experienced, says the MTR report. “In order to increase the pace of production of the temporary steelwork, additional off site fabrication yards and resources have been arranged. As at the end of March 2015, erection of the temporary and permanent steel members of the SEB structure was 45% and 16% complete. This is behind the planned progress of 93% and 35% respectively.”