Public Works Subcommittee

Minutes of the proceedings of the Meeting
held on 26 June 1996 at 10:45 am in the Legislative Council Chamber

Members Present :

    Dr Hon Samuel WONG Ping-wai, MBE, FEng, JP (Chairman)
    Hon Albert CHAN Wai-yip (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, OBE, JP
    Hon Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee, OBE, JP
    Hon Frederick FUNG Kin-kee
    Hon LEE Wing-tat
    Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
    Hon Zachary WONG Wai-yin
    Hon Christine LOH Kung-wai
    Hon CHAN Kam-lam
    Hon CHAN Yuen-han
    Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung
    Hon IP Kwok-him
    Hon SIN Chung-kai
    Hon TSANG Kin-shing
    Dr Hon John TSE Wing-ling
    Hon Mrs Elizabeth WONG CHIEN Chi-lien, CBE, ISO, JP
    Hon Lawrence YUM Sin-ling

Members Attending :

    Hon Fred LI Wah-ming

Members Absent :

    Hon LAU Wong-fat, OBE, JP
    Hon Ronald ARCULLI, OBE, JP
    Dr Hon Edward LEONG Che-hung, OBE, JP
    Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing
    Hon Eric LI Ka-cheung, OBE, JP
    Hon Henry TANG Ying-yen, JP
    Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong
    Hon MOK Ying-fan
    Hon NGAN Kam-chuen

Public Officers Attending :

Mr Y Y NG, OBE, JP Director of Drainage Services
Mr John COLLIER, JP Deputy Secretary for Works (Works Policy)
Mr C L AU, JP Director of Territory Development
Mr M S HU, JP Director of Water Supplies
Mr Frank LOONG Principal Assistant Secretary for Housing (Project Management)
Mr Kenneth CHAN, JP Director of Architectural Services
Miss Annette LEE Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower
Mr P S HONG Assistant Director of Education (Allocation and Support)

In Attendance :

Mr Bowen LEUNG, JP Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands
Mr H S KWONG, JP Secretary for Works
Dr Rob LAW, JP Director of Environmental Protection
Mrs Carrie LAM Deputy Secretary for the Treasury
Mr James HERD Principal Assistant Secretary for the Treasury (Works)
Miss Pauline NG Assistant Secretary General
Mrs Constance LI Clerk to the Public Works Subcommittee
Mr Andy LAU Senior Assistant Secretary (Finance Committee)

Upgrading of projects to Category A



Stormwater drainage masterplan study in Tsuen Wan, Kwai Chung and Tsing Yi

In response to members’ questions, the Director of Drainage Services (DDS) advised that on-going remedial action was being taken to resolve the drainage problems at identified blackspots in Tsuen Wan, Kwai Chung and Tsing Yi districts. Nevertheless, it would be necessary to conduct a comprehensive study on the existing drainage system to identify flood-prone areas for longer-term improvements. DDS further advised that the remaining catchment areas in Tai Mo Shan, which were on the other side of the watershed, would be covered in a separate study.

2. The Administration also took note of a member’s comment that, pending the outcome of the study, interim improvements should be made to alleviate the flooding problems at previously identified blackspots in Kwai Chung district.

3. The item was voted on and endorsed.



Feasibility study for provision of decking to existing open nullahs

4. Members were generally in support of the proposal to deck over open nullahs to reduce the environmental nuisance. Considering that the project would likely take a long time to complete, members asked what interim measures might be taken to alleviate the problem.

5. In response, DDS advised that the proposed study would be carried out in two phases in view of the magnitude of the problem. Phase One of the study was scheduled to start in July 1996, aiming at completion by early 1999. In the meantime, the Administration would continue its regular maintenance and clearance works in respect of existing drains, and where justified, implement any necessary improvement works identified in the course of the study.

6. Noting that the Administration had in fact carried out a preliminary study on 52 open nullahs, members asked whether there was a need to engage consultants to conduct further studies. In reply, DDS advised that the preliminary study was conducted by in-house staff on the basis of information gathered from their daily work. Given the complexity of the project and the current shortage of in-house staff, it was necessary to engage consultants to carry out specialist investigations and environmental and traffic reviews in order to draw up a prioritised programme to enable further detailed design to proceed. The consultants would also make recommendations on the use of the surface space of the decked nullahs. On the criteria for selecting the 31 nullahs for the feasibility study, DDS advised that the Administration had taken into account various factors such as the nullahs’ proximity to densely populated areas, the degree of environmental nuisance and the frequency of complaints. The Administration would review at a later stage as to the need to extend the study to cover the remaining 21 nullahs. In this connection, members urged the Administration to take early action to improve the environmental problems caused by open nullahs in the territory, and to instigate precautionary measures to prevent illegal usage of the decked nullahs.

7. The item was voted on and endorsed.



Investigation of sewers and drains affecting the safety of fill slopes and retaining walls

8. Members generally supported the proposal to expedite the inspection of buried services in slopes to prevent slope failures or landslips. They expressed grave concern, however, about an approach which split the inspection of sewers and watermains into two separate consultancies as detailed in PWSC(96-97)24 and PWSC(96-97)26. They considered slope inspection and maintenance to be a long-term commitment of the Government, and given the magnitude of the problem, it would be more cost-effective for the Administration to appoint a consolidated consultancy to undertake all slope stabilisation works under the supervision of a designated government department, such as the Geotechnical Engineering Office (GEO). Considering the large number of slopes involved, several consultants could be engaged to carry out slope safety works on a geographical basis under an integrated approach.

9. In response, the Deputy Secretary for Works (DS/W) advised that the inspection of sewage and watermains required two different types of expertise, and the works should be carried out separately especially since watermains inspections were normally carried out at night to minimise disruption to residents. As such, no significant economies in scale would be achieved in having a consolidated consultancy for these two studies. However, the Administration would synchronise any necessary improvement works for individual slopes identified by these studies. The Secretary for Works added that, if necessary, a task force could be set up under the Works Branch to coordinate the implementation of all slope stabilisation measures resulting from these studies.

10. Responding to a member’s question, DDS advised that the present study would cover only fill slopes, and a separate study had been commissioned by GEO to review manmade slopes in Hong Kong. While the study on fill slopes would be based on the information in the 1977/78 Catalogue of Slopes, the consultants would also take account of any relevant, updated findings in the GEO study.

11. On a member’s suggestion that it might be more economical to employ contract staff for slope stabilisation work which could take years to complete, the Deputy Secretary for the Treasury (DS/Tsy) advised that the Administration had previously reviewed the longer-term staffing requirements in this respect, and concluded that a mixture of consultants and in-house staff would provide greater flexibility in meeting different project requirements. In this connection, the Civil Engineering Department was provided with some 100 additional posts to speed up the landslip preventive measures programme. To provide added flexibility, these posts were filled by staff on a contract basis. However, as the proposed study would require considerable resources over a three-year period, the Administration considered that consultants should be engaged instead of recruiting more contract staff. She added that, for specialist investigations of this kind, engagement of consultants would be more cost-effective than the creation of civil service posts.

12. On the question of liability in the event of a slope failure after different consultants had been engaged to carry out different parts of the slope improvement works, DS/W advised that the works departments would be responsible for any works and services under their auspices. As far as slope improvement works were concerned, the Water Supplies Department and the Drainage Services Department would be responsible for the physical condition of buried watermains and sewage systems respectively, while slope stabilisation would be the responsibility of the GEO. Under the present proposals, the GEO would maintain close liaison with the two consultants to be engaged by the departments before underwriting the consultancy designs for any slope stabilisation measures. In response to members’ requests, the Administration undertook to provide additional information on the engagement of consultants for slope stabilisation projects before the item was submitted to the Finance Committee for consideration.


13. In view of the urgency of the slope stabilisation programme, members indicated no objection to the proposed consultancy studies. They suggested, however, that the Administration should critically review the current arrangement of appointing consultants on a piece-meal basis for projects which were inter-related and required a high degree of coordination, so as to ensure overall efficiency and effectiveness. A member also asked the Administration to accord priority to slopes adjacent to schools.

14. The item was voted on and endorsed.




Tuen Mun New Town engineering development, formation, roads and drains in area 52 (remainder) and footbridge across Road D9

15. On the design of the three-celled box culvert, the Director of Territory Development (DTD) advised that each cell measuring 3.5 metres square was wide enough to allow fallen tree branches and leaves to flow through in the event of heavy rainstorms. The use of a single box culvert would incur much higher costs. He undertook to provide further information on the price difference between the two designs.


16. Responding to a member’s question, DTD advised that in order to tie in with public and private residential developments in area 52, Tuen Mun, it would be necessary to provide infrastructural facilities in the area.

17. Responding to a member’s question on the apparently high construction costs of the footbridge, DTD advised that, having regard to the length of the footbridge which would be about 450 metres long made up of 45 metres main span and 405 metres ramp, the construction costs were considered reasonable.

18. This item was voted on and endorsed.




Inspection of buried watermains affecting slopes - consultants’ fees

19. Responding to a member’s questions, the Director of Water Supplies (DWS) confirmed that the proposed study would not cause any environmental nuisance to the residents nearby.

20. Concerning the arrangement to tender the consultancy on a time charge fee basis instead of a lump-sum basis, DWS advised that the proposed study would cover a large number of buried watermains (about 3,000 in total) adjacent to housing estates and other developments, and it would be difficult at the preliminary planning stage to accurately forecast the actual amount of works required for the whole project. Nevertheless, the charges would be subject to a ceiling calculated on the basis of the costs for similar works to be undertaken by in-house staff. This arrangement was in line with other similar contracts. As regards the use of a higher salary point (Point 44 instead of 40 on the Master Pay Scale) for calculating the charge rate for professionals in respect of water mains identification and leakage detection, DWS advised that the estimate took into account the higher level of expertise required for such jobs, and the limited supply of such expertise on the market.

21. On the reasons for not requiring the consultant to draw up a detailed improvement programme after the study, DWS advised that to prevent any possible damage to the slope, urgent repairs would be arranged as soon as any leakage was identified, hence a detailed programme of works would not be necessary.

22. Noting that the study would take six years to complete, members questioned why the Administration did not create civil service posts on a supernumerary basis. In reply, DS/Tsy explained that the overall civil service establishment was subject to tight control, and the Administration would carefully evaluate the benefits of different options in meeting extra project commitments. Considering the time constraints and the type of expertise required for the proposed study, and in view of the difficulties in recruiting a large number of suitable staff within a short time frame, the Administration considered that it would be more cost-effective to engage consultants for the job. To strengthen the establishment of the GEO in undertaking the landslip preventive measures, additional funds had been provided to recruit contract staff for the task. On the time required for the study, DWS considered the timetable reasonable having regard to the scale of the project and the fact that most of the works would only be carried out at night.

23. Referring to a similar consultancy study to investigate buried sewers and drains affecting slopes [PWSC(96-97)24], members urged the Administration to consider the possibility of awarding a consolidated consultancy and identifying a designated department to coordinate all inspection works on slope safety for greater cost-effectiveness. A member again asked the Administration to accord priority to slopes adjacent to schools.

24. The item was voted on and endorsed.




Ngau Tam Mei treatment work - construction

25. The item was voted on and endorsed.


PWSC(96-97)21 203ES Secondary school in Area 14, Tin Shui Wai
204ES Secondary school in Area 9, Tai Po
205ES Secondary school in Area 49A, Fanling

26. Some members pointed out that the location of school sites in recent proposals was rather unsatisfactory as these schools were often subject to a high level of noise nuisance. They considered that the Administration should make more effort to make available better sites for schools. In response, the Assistant Director of Education (AD/ED) advised that selection of school sites had always been difficult in view of the various constraints such as accessibility to public transport. As regards the proposed school site in Tin Shui Wai which was a new town, AD/ED advised that only a small part of the land had been delivered to the Government for infrastructural and community development by the private developer responsible for the greater part of the formed land area in Tin Shui Wai.

27. As to why no noise mitigation measures had been included in the design of the proposed secondary school in area 49A, Fanling, the Director of Architectural Services advised that the site was free from noise nuisance, and therefore no noise abatement measures were necessary.

28. The item was voted on and endorsed.



Minor improvements to sewage treatment and disposal facilities at various government buildings and military camps

29. The item was voted on and endorsed.

30. The Committee was adjourned at 12.20 p.m.

Legislative Council Secretariat
12 July 1996

Last Updated on 27 November 1998