The long-awaited mega bridge spanning the Pearl River estuary in southern China may now face further delays after Hong Kong’s anti-corruption watchdog announced on Tuesday that 21 government contractors had been arrested on suspicion of falsifying test results regarding the strength of concrete used to build the world’s longest sea bridge.
Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) revealed on Tuesday that two senior executives and 19 laboratory technicians employed by a government contractor had been arrested as part of an investigation into the building of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge project.
The contractor had been hired in 2013 by Hong Kong’s Civil Engineering and Development Department to conduct compression tests on concrete samples for the bridge. In a statement, the ICAC stated that it suspects the contractor began falsifying these tests back in 2015.
The South China Morning Post quotes the watchdog’s report:
It was revealed that when some of the tests were not conducted within the set time frame in compliance with the contract requirements, the site laboratory technicians and laboratory assistants might have adjusted the times on the testing machines to cover up the irregularities.
ICAC inquiries [also] revealed that the two senior site laboratory technicians had certified the false test reports. It was suspected that they might have corruptly connived at the submission of the false reports to the CEDD.
This is more bad news for a multi-billion dollar bridge project which has been marred with multiple delays, ballooning costs and the deaths of nine workers. The bridge, which began construction back in 2011, will connect Hong Kong with Macau and Zhuhai on the southern coast of Guangdong province. It is expected to open at the end of the year; however its opponents have dubbed the bridge a “white elephant” that won’t draw enough drivers to justify the huge expense — estimated now to be at over $19 billion.
The Hong Kong government has said that it is currently investigating the possible safety implications of the ICAC’s findings. So far, tests have turned up nothing abnormal in the bridge’s construction.
However, one expert, Greg Wong Chak-yan, a former president of the Institution of Engineers, warned that in the worst-case scenario, the structure may have to be rebuilt.
“If the concrete is far below standard and is used in one-third or two-thirds of the supporting pillars or bridge columns, of course it would pose safety risk and the government needs to take extra time to replace them,” Wong told SCMP. “That would be the worst thing that could happen. Otherwise simple measures could be taken in remediation.”
[Images via Xinhua]
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