West Rail is gearing up for an autumn 2003 opening after passing key milestones during the peak construction phase last year.
Hong Kong's KowloonCanton Railway Corporation (KCRC) is currently one of South East Asia's biggest construction clients, adding new lines to its existing rail and light rail services. At present KCRC runs the East Rail line from Hung Hom in downtown Kowloon to Lo Wu at the boundary with China. This carries a mixture of commuters and long distance passenger trains, plus freight. Around 292M commuters use East Rail every year and another 2M a year use long distance trains which travel from Hung Hom to mainland China, KCRC also runs a light rail system in the New Territories handling around 120M passengers a year. Currently West Rail, Ma On Shan Rail and Tsim Sha Tsui extensions are under way while work is expected to start on the East Rail spur line this summer.
By the end of next year, services are expected to start running on the new West Rail line between Kowloon and the western New Territories. Contractors have largely completed the civils work and are starting to hand over sites to follow on trades and systems contractors. Trains are being delivered and preparations to commission the line are in full swing.
There are already signs that this project will be completed on time and within budget.
Meanwhle civils work on KCRC's East Rail extensions projects linking Kowloon with the eastern New Territories is advancing. This involves construction of a 11.4km link from Tai Wai to Wu Kai Sha, and a 1km southern extension from the existing Kowloon terminus at Hung Hom to a new, more central one at Tsim Sha Tsui East.
Last month KCRC won clearance to build the 7.4km spur line linking East Rail to the border crossing with Mainland China at Lok Ma Chau from Hong Kong's Environmental Protection Department. This will relieve growing pressure on the existing border crossing station at Lo Wu.
For the future, plans include new connections between East and West Rail and a Sha Tin to Central link, taking the Corporation's growing network on to Hong Kong Island for the first time.
Hong Kong's KowloonCanton Railway Corporation (KCRC) is just under 18 months away from openingWest Rail, its newest railway line. Just four years after the project got the official go ahead, civils work is more than 90% complete and the overall project is 72% finished.
The KCRC West Rail team is now gearing up for what its project managers describe as 'operational readiness'.
When it opens in autumn 2003, the 30.5km West Rail line will provide a vital new link between downtown Kowloon and a chain of new towns in the North West New Territories. Trains will run on a 13.4km viaduct - the longest built in Hong Kong, and through 14.7km of tunnels. Tunnelling has included the drill and blast Tai Lam structure which at 5.5km is the Special Administrative Region's longest transportation tunnel.
The line will serve nine stations with trains able to make the trip from Tuen Mun to Nam Cheong in 30 minutes. It will also interchange with Mass Transit Railway (MTR) lines at Mei Foo and Nam Cheong at the Kowloon end and with KCRC's light rail system.
As construction work comes to an end, KCRC is also well into preparations for the start of rail services. 'An operational readiness plan and programme has been developed to provide a road map and tracking system towards achieving smooth operation on day one, ' says West Rail director Ian Thoms. 'Activities covered by the operational readiness plan and programme are essentially all those items that are not part of the project works deliverables, but are necessary for day one operation.'
The plan sets out objectives for each part of the West Rail organisation, for external government bodies and for other parts of KCRC affected by the project. It is a fluid document which is updated in the light of unfolding events. Teams of West Rail staff will be responsible for getting the line open on time, headed by a high level operational readiness steering committee chaired by KCRC chief executive KY Yeung. This works with an operational readiness working group headed by Thoms and a government services readiness task force.
Over the last 12 months, contractors have cracked the civil works programme despite delays caused by unforeseen ground conditions at two stations and flood risks at two more, being constructed in stormwater relief channels, or nullahs.
As the civils programme has drawn to a close, new challenges have arisen as follow on trades and railway systems contractors have begun to appear on site.
This phase of the project is providing the first real test for the interface management strategy, devised by KCRC to anticipate the knock on effects of late running contracts on follow on work.
KCRC's plan was to make sure everyone involved in the project agreed on the timescales for handing over completed construction work to the plethora of follow on teams, ranging from electricians and track laying teams, to signalling systems contractors and escalator installers.
This was done through KCRC's partnering approach to project management. 'Communication has been the key to the successful running of the West Rail project, ' says Thoms.
With 13,000 staff and site operatives and 56 contracts in full swing, of which 36 are worth more than HK-50M (US-6.4M), the project requires a dedicated level of co-ordination and communication to allow vital information to flow freely.
This was done during the programme of quarterly review meetings (QRMs) held by KCRC as a forum for brainstorming problems and anticipated setbacks with contractors of all disciplines. KCRC also used the forum to get everyone agreed on timescales and deadlines.
'Having contractors explain their problems and systems contractors explain their views is definitely the way forward, ' says Thoms.
Encouraging problem sharing and discussion is not just confined to the three monthly QRMs. Senior KCRC West Rail team members make sure they are available to help contractors with more pressing problems, to help deal with them early.
'From my perspective, I make myself available to everybody who is involved in the project.
Contractors and site supervisory staff are welcome to ring me any time of the day or night, ' says KCRC general manager, construction Jaya Jesudason.
While he may delegate problems to colleagues, Jesudason is there as a conduit for helping people on the project find the right person to help solve particular problems.
'Basically I am available so that people can explain their problems. Normally I give a suggestion or find someone who can sort the problem out for them, ' he says.
As the project has progressed, KCRC has also used the QRMs to help its contractors rephase and reprogramme work to minimise disruption when construction work has not gone as well as expected.
One area where this approach has helped has been in the testing of the West Rail trains and signalling systems. Originally this was to have been done on track running west from the depot at Pat Heung near Kam Sheung Road station to Yuen Long station in the New Territories. But late running work at Yuen Long meant that track could not be handed over in time.
However tunnel work running south of Kam Sheung Road to Tsuen Wan West station had finished on time, so it was decided to use track in the tunnel for testing instead, says West Rail general manager railway systems (acting) Leo Mak.
All this detailed planning has been going on against a fast track construction and systems development programme. 'Production and testing of systems was happening concurrently with the civils work last year, ' says Mak. The idea is to iron out as many bugs as possible in the interface between the different systems, such as that between trains and signals, before full scale testing starts on West Rail.
To this end, KCRC has been using a East Rail loop track, which serves Sha Tin racecourse on race days, to test run signalling systems and early batches of West Rail trains, which are being supplied by the Japanese Itochu-Kinki SharyoKawasaki consortium.
Keeping the project on schedule and to budget has meant working with contractors to solve problems as they arise, rather than allowing disputes and claims to fester until the end of the project. This has involved getting contractors from across the project to work in teams to solve common problems during the QRMs.
'At the end of the year I was very satisfied with what we had achieved, ' says KCRC senior director, capital projects James Blake. 'There is no doubt that the QRM process enabled us to look at problems and identify achievable targets for the quarter. That way there was no doubt about what the client wanted in anyone's mind, ' he says.
KCRC also used the meetings to reschedule delayed work, recognising that it might have to share costs of speeding up work.
'We've taken a very proactive role in terms of how we've communicated with contractors and addressed their claims and variations, ' says West Rail general manager, project support Alan Donnet.
The aim so far has been to work out ways of catching up lost time instead of imposing liquidated damages as a matter of course.
For instance some contracts could insist on a contractor making a defined number of rooms in a station available by a certain date to allow a railway systems contractor to start work. But access may not be needed to all of these rooms at once, so KCRC takes the view that so long as rooms that are needed are ready, and there is no delay or disruption, the liquidated damages need not apply.
This flexible project management approach has worked well so far, to the point where final accounts are all but settled for two of the viaduct contracts, one of the stations, and the two tunnel contracts.
West Rail has also remained within budget, with the current estimated cost of HK-46.4bn, reflecting a second downward adjustment. Lower costs are explained by lower than expected inflation, lower construction, land acquisition and financing costs, value engineering cost savings and a stringent control for managing project costs. 'The cost control system for West Rail enables the management to identify problem areas early and to initiate timely corrective action so as to maximise the chances of completing the project within the established budget, ' says Donnet.
The only threat to this way of working has come from a Hong Kong Legislative Council probe into extra payments arising from these negotiations, or 'supplemental agreements' as they are known. These are deals struck between client and contractor to resolve issues which threaten to delay the project. They can also tackle unexpected problems created for contractors by third parties, including other contractors or government departments.
So far, the cumulative cost of supplemental agreements across the whole project has run to more than HK-1.54bn - a figure which has attracted some criticism from LegCo lawmakers despite the fact that it accounts for a relatively small amount of the entire project value.
Thoms strongly defends KCRC's right to strike such agreements and says it has been fundamental to good contractor relations, to keeping the project on schedule, and to keeping the project within budget. 'The benefit of supplemental agreements is that they clear the air and take the vitriol out of the situation, so that people are focused on looking forward rather than looking back, ' says Thoms.
The results speak for themselves. West Rail is currently on track to open three months early in Septemer 2003, subject to KCRC board and government approvals, and the project is still sticking to its HK-46.4bn budget.
Already track laying is 80% complete following completion of the 13.4km viaduct in December and the 14.7km of tunnels last July. Nearly half of the lifts and escalators for the nine West Rail stations are being installed, the tunnel ventilation system is almost 60% complete and 30% of the overhead power system is in place.
Northern section Contractors working on West Rail's northern section have overcome some of the project's toughest challenges over the last 12 months.
Flash floods and very difficult ground conditions had threatened to undermine progress on four of the six stations on West Rail's north section last year. But despite some disruption, work is on schedule with construction of stations at Tuen Mun, Siu Hong, Yuen Long and Long Ping substantially complete.
Tuen Mun and Siu Hong stations are built on piles bored into the bed of a 70m wide nullah or storm water channel. As such, their construction sites were vulnerable to flash flooding during the April to September wet season, while temporary works in the nullah would have reduced flood relief capacity. As a result, the HKACE joint venture compressed piling and column construction at Siu Hong and Tuen Mun into six month segments.
'The main issue for the contractor was to organise the work to maximise the amount of dry season work while utilising the workforce in the wet season, ' says West Rail northern section project manager Gregory Yuen.
As the station structures emerged from the nullah, the contractor reduced the need to use space in the nullah by cantilevering falsework off the station structures, rather than founding it on the flood channel floor.
'The other major challenge was the piling works at Yuen Long and Long Ping, ' says Yuen. Areas of cavitied marble on these sites had caused delays of up to six months because contractor Amec-Hong Kong Construction joint venture had to sink some of its piles to depths of between 120m and 130m before they could find deep enough layers of continuously competent rock.
Seen but not heard A combination of rolling stock and track design is expected to make West Rail one of the quietest railways in the world.
Much of the above ground section of West Rail runs close to densely populated urban areas, putting pressure on KCRC to ensure trains transmit no more than 55dBa as they move about the system.
Added to this is Hong Kong's stringent Noise Control Ordinance, which means that the new West Rail trains will be among the quietest in the world. Aluminium-clad skirts lined with a sintered aluminium layer will damp down noise made by wheels on track. And manufacturer Itochu-Kinki Sharyo-Kawasaki has also developed more aerodynamic fan blades for the trains' air conditioning system so that roof mounted extractors produce very little noise.
Streamlined nose cones of West Rail 154 train cars will minimise noise made by the pressure waves as trains go into and out of tunnels.
And train vehicle suspension has been developed to ensure trains ride as smoothly as possible, further limiting noise generated.
Tracks are also designed to absorb noise. On the 13.4km viaduct section where noise control is especially problematic, track will run on a 'floating slab' track bed resting on rubber bearings to reduce vibration transmitted into the structure, reduced further by track fasteners.
Running each side, 1m above track level, are parallel insulated concrete walkways which will trap sound escaping from under the train mounted skirts.
The concrete viaduct box girder has the walls of the web directly under each rail, to minimise the amplifying 'drum' effect.
Most of the tunnelled section of the route uses less expensive track fixed to concrete monoblocks, set on microcellular pads with rubber boots encased in concrete.
Tunnels Electrical and systems contractors are already at work in the tunnels which form 38% of the West Rail route following the completion of tunnel boring and excavation last year and installation of most of the track.
West Rail's southern section comprises two major tunnels, the 5.5km drill and blast Tai Lam tunnel, and the 3.6km Kwai Tsing tunnels, comprising three sections running between Tsuen Wan West Station and Mei Foo Station along the West Rail southern section.
The HK-1.9bn Kwai Tsing tunnels comprise a 1.7km drill and blast section just north of Mei Foo which broke through in October 2000 and the 1.78km twin bore Tsing Tsuen section to the Tai Lam tunnel, completed last year by contractor Dragages Zen Pacific using the same earth pressure balance shield tunnel boring machine for both bores.
The Tsing Tsuen section passes through a mixture of granite and soft ground mixed with granite boulders. While the first bore took eight and a half months to complete, the second began in early 2001 and finished last July.
KCRC West Rail construction manager Howard McKay says the faster progress on the second bore reflected the fact that the contractor's TBM teams had refined their tunnelling techniques.
Contractor DragagesNishimatsu broke through on the HK-1.8bn Tai Lam tunnel in April last year after a two year programme. The French/Japanese consortium split work along national lines with Dragages working from the northern end and Nishimatsu from the south.
Southern stations Two of the most complex West Rail stations are at Mei Foo and Nam Cheong in West Kowloon. Nam Cheong is the southern terminus and will provide a direct interchange to the Mass Transit Railway's (MTR) Tung Chung Line which runs through the site. The presence of these lines at ground level and the busy West Kowloon Expressway viaduct above made the work on Balfour Beatty-Zen Pacific's HK-2.238bn contract extremely sensitive.
Part of the station structure has been constructed under and around the Tung Chung/Airport Express track and beneath the road viaduct so excavation work had to be carried out without producing more than 25mm of settlement. To complicate matters, the station's 350m by 80m footprint also runs across three major water cooling mains for the MTR's nearby underground lines.
The mains run through reclaimed ground under the station so there was a heightened risk of settlement.
'Construction work and piling did trigger some accelerated consolidation and we had to slow down a bit, ' says KCRC southern section project manager CN Fung.
'We had to be very careful, but the risk has been eliminated, ' he adds.
Just to the north, civils work at the Kier-Zen Pacific's HK-1.2bn Mei Foo interchange with MTR's Tsuen Wan line is giving way to follow on trades after a year of intensive construction actitvity. The station's 33,000m 2footprint has been squeezed between the busy Ching Cheung Road and under a busy expressway viaduct. It also crosses above MTR's underground Tsuen Wan tracks, so excavation and piling work had to be sequenced to avoid disrupting services or causing damaging settlement.
At the north end of the station, contractors are excavating a short cut and cover section in the cramped space under the Ching Chung road. This involves shifting traffic lanes within the confines of the road route, which hugs a steep sided hill.
Beyond Mei Foo, construction work on the underground Tsuen Wan West Station is substantially complete. Built by Penta OceanKier within a propped diaphragm wall in reclaimed land, the structure is 390m long and 40m wide and rests on 84 bored piles and 44 H-piles.
Southern section stations contractors and consultants Nam Cheong:
Contractor Balfour Beatty-Zen Pacific JV KCRC design consultant:
Hyder Consulting Mei Foo:
Contractor Kier-Zen Pacific JV KCRC detailed design consultant:
Hyder Consulting Tsuen Wan West:
Contractor Penta Ocean-Kier JV KCRC detailed design consultant:
Atkins China Viaduct West Rail's precast posttensioned glued segmental concrete viaduct is the longest bridge in Hong Kong, running 13.4km from the tunnel portal south of Kam Sheung Road Station all the way to the northern terminus at Tuen Mun.
Contractor Maeda-Chun Wo completed construction of the HK-2.1bn viaduct in December, working to an alternative design by Robert Benaim & Associates.
Work is now focused on installing the noise absorbant footway and overhead electrification.
The structure comprises 607 spans, of which 367 were completed last year alone, using eight underslung temporary steel support girders. Typical spans are 35m across, and the structure rests on 686 piles bored to an average depth of 35m.
Erection work took place through a series of built up areas, so contractors had to take the viaduct across several highway junctions. 'Advance planning, typical of the whole West Rail project, was vital to ensure that road possession work did not overrun and cause excessive traffic disruption, ' says West Rail viaducts construction manager Sam Lo.
Construction across flood relief channels or nullahs also had to be sequenced to avoid the April to September rainy season. This was to ensure that plant and equipment did not get caught in the channel during flash flooding and disrupt water flows.
Piling work finished in September and since then, the contractor has flooded both sites with construction workers to catch up lost time. At peak last year, the two sites employed around 1,000 workers and lost time was caught up, thanks to the extra numbers and tight site management.
The stations are being constructed next to densely populated high rise housing, so night working between 7pm and 7am is severely restricted.
Careful planning was also needed to ensure that tower cranes are used as efficiently as possible,
Northern section contractors Kam Sheung Road Station:
Necsco Entrecanales Cubiertas Pat Heung Maintenance Centre:
Costain-China Harbour JV Yuen Long/Long Ping stations:
Amec-Hong Kong Construction Tin Shui Wai Station: Chun WoFujita-Henryvicy Siu Hong/Tuen Mun stations:
HKACE JV (Hong Kong Construction, Amec International, China Railway Construction and China Everbright Holdings) Northern section consultants Yuen Long section: Ove Arup & Partners Hong Kong Tuen Mun section: Maunsell Consultants Asia West Rail depot: Parsons Brinckerhoff (Asia)