Provisional Legislative Council

PLC Paper No. PWSC 46
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

Ref : CB1/F/2/2

Public Works Subcommittee of the
Provisional Legislative Council

Minutes of the meeting held at the Legislative Council Chamber on Wednesday, 26 November 1997, at 10:45 am

Members present:

Hon HO Sai-chu, JP (Chairman)
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP (Deputy Chairman)
Hon WONG Siu-yee
Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, JP
Hon Eric LI Ka-cheung, JP
Hon Allen LEE, JP
Hon Mrs Elsie TU, GBM
Hon Henry WU
Hon MOK Ying-fan
Hon CHAN Yuen-han
Hon CHAN Kam-lam
Hon Frederick FUNG Kin-kee
Dr Hon TANG Siu-tong, JP
Hon Timothy FOK Tsun-ting
Hon KAN Fook-yee
Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok

Member attending :

Hon IP Kwok-him

Members absent :

Prof Hon NG Ching-fai
Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung
Dr Hon Mrs TSO WONG Man-yin
Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP
Hon Mrs Sophie LEUNG LAU Yau-fun, JP
Hon CHENG Kai-nam
Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
Hon LAU Wong-fat, JP
Hon Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee, JP
Hon TAM Yiu-chung, JP

Public officers attending :

Miss Emma LAU
Deputy Secretary for the Treasury (3)

Mr Bowen LEUNG, JP
Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands

Secretary for Works

Deputy Director of Environmental Protection

Mr James HERD
Principal Assistant Secretary for the Treasury (Works)

Director of Territory Development

Project Manager, New Airport Projects Co-ordination Office

Director of Drainage Services

Director of Highways

irector of Water Supplies

Director of Architectural Services

Chief Property Manager (Estate Development), Government Property Agency

Mr Johann WONG
Principal Assistant Secretary for Trade and Industry (D)

Assistant Commissioner of Customs and Excise (Control and Intellectual Property)

Director of Electrical and Mechanical Services

Ms Alice TAI, JP
Judiciary Administrator

Mr Philip CHAN
Principal Assistant Secretary for Security (E)

Chief Superintendent of Police (Planning & Development), Hong Kong Police Force

Ms Michelle LI
Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower (1)

Mr Jack CHAN
Deputy Secretary-General (1), University Grants Committee

Mr Clement LAU
Assistant Director of Drainage Services (Trading Fund)

Mr Johnny CHAN
Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport (5)

Clerk in attendance:

Mrs Vivian KAM
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)5
Staff in attendance:

Ms Pauline NG Assistant Secretary General 1

Mr Kenneth KWOK
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)8


Revision in scope/approved estimate of projects in Category A


PWSC(97-98)80382CLWest Kowloon reclamation - hinterland drainage, package 1

The Director of Territory Development (DTD) advised in response to members that the project under consideration was one of the components of the West Kowloon Reclamation (WKR) project. An additional provision of $35 million was sought to cover additional expenses arising from the rearrangement of uncharted utilities found after excavation works had commenced and adoption of alternative construction methods due to adverse site and weather conditions. Nevertheless, notwithstanding the increase in commitment for the project in question, the overall project estimate for WKR would be reduced from $12,191 million to $11,699 million.

2.A member noticed that one of the reasons given for the modification of the design was the existence of the critical 24-way optical fibre telephone cables which were installed quite recently. He questioned the failure of not taking into account the existence of the cables when the preliminary plan was drawn up. DTD clarified that the Administration was aware of the existence of the cables, but as these cables could not be diverted, the modification of plans for uncharted utilities had become much more complex. As regards the responsibility of the parties who should be held responsible for the uncharted underground utility installations, DTD advised that the major problem rested with the large number of unauthorised connections carried out by private parties over the years and these persons were difficult to identify. A member suggested that the relevant panel should follow up on the issue of illegal installations of underground utilities.

3.Members questioned why the consultant who prepared the original design could be absolved of his liability for failing to identify the uncharted utilities. DTD stressed that the project was carried out in the most populous and congested part of West Kowloon which was an old district developed decades ago. The degree of complexity and intensity of the uncharted utilities problem was therefore unprecedented. Pre-contract detailed investigation was impossible without causing undue inconvenience and disruption to the public. The consultancy study for the design of the project had been carried out in accordance with the defined scope and stipulated specifications, and the consultant's report had been accepted after careful examination. As for the responsibility of the contractor, although the Administration could on the one hand lodge a claim against the contractor for unnecessary delays and unjustified additional expenses, the payment of additional costs to the contractor was justified on the other hand for remedial measures undertaken as a result of site constraints and inclement weather conditions which were beyond the contractor's control. DTD confirmed that the proposed increase in provision was sufficient for the settlement of the contractual claims and the final account of the project. He further assured members that a mechanism was in place for effective monitoring of the performance of contractors, and that unsatisfactory performance would impact on their chances of being awarded contracts in future.

4.A member enquired if it would be more cost-effective to employ consultants on a permanent rather than on a project basis for undertaking consultancy studies. The Secretary for Works (S for W) advised that selection of consultants for Government projects was made through an open and competitive bidding system and considered on the basis of a number of factors including experience, suitability and past performance. Where appropriate, the Administration would engage consultants to undertake studies for a series of related projects, an example of which was the development of new towns. At members' request, S for W undertook to provide a list of consultants engaged in public works projects. Admin

5.The item was voted on and endorsed.


Upgrading of projects to Category A


PWSC(97-98)7464CDRural drainage rehabilitation scheme

6.In reply to a member on the effectiveness of the project in alleviating flooding in the North-east and North-west New Territories, the Director of Drainage Services (DDS) advised that the project was part of a comprehensive rural drainage rehabilitation scheme which, together with other projects such as the Shenzhen River Regulation Project and the Indus River Training Project, would alleviate the potential of major flooding in the New Territories. The series of projects, estimated to cost a total of $518 million, would be completed by the year 2000-2001. The Chairman suggested that issues relating to flood control and preventive measures could be followed up by the Panel on Planning, Lands and Works if necessary.

7.Referring to the seven footbridges across Ng Tung River and Kwan Tei River proposed to be demolished during the construction stage, DDS confirmed that temporary footbridges would be provided during the construction period to minimize inconvenience to local residents.

8.The item was voted on and endorsed.


PWSC(97-98)81573THVictoria Road improvements stage 2 phase 2

9.Having regard to the excessive noise affecting residents of the Pok Fu Lam Fire Services Officers Married Quarters, a member asked if noise mitigation measures other than air-conditioning and window insulation had been explored. The Director of Highways (DHy) assured members that the feasibility of direct technical remedies had been considered but were found impractical as the building was 25-storeys high. Noise barriers which were 10 metres high would only reduce the noise nuisance on residents living in lower floors. The use of road enclosures would pose ventilation and problems of access for emergency vehicles. Neither would the laying of noise reducing surfacing materials be suitable in this particular case as the frequent turning and braking operations of vehicles would quickly wear out the surface and frequent maintenance would unduly disrupt traffic.

10.In response to a member on the different public works projects carried out in stages along Victoria Road, DHy explained that the works had to be carried out in stages in order to minimize disruption to the heavy traffic in the area.

11.As regards a member's concern on the capacity of Victoria Road in coping with future traffic needs arising from population growth in the vicinity and the Southern district, DHy advised that the project would straighten critical sections and widen the substandard sections of the road from 6.4 metres to 7.3 metres. Further widening of the road would however be very expensive owing to site constraints. While the Administration would endeavour to speed up work progress to effect early improvement in traffic between Western and Southern districts, the long-term solution rested with the early construction of Route 7.

12.The item was voted on and endorsed.


PWSC(97-98)78277CLTseung Kwan O development, phase 2, remaining engineering works

37WCWater supply to Tseung Kwan O

13.The item was voted on and endorsed.


PWSC(97-98)7629GKRegional depot for Water Supplies Department in Mainland South-east

14.The item was voted on and endorsed.

PWSC(97-98)77148GKCustoms building in container port area, Kwai Chung

15.As the proposed dangerous goods godown would only be 26 metres away from an electricity sub-station, a member raised concern on the safety aspect. The Director of Architectural Services (D Arch S) advised that both the Buildings Department and the Fire Services Department had been consulted on the site plan and confirmed that the proposed arrangement was in order. He further assured members that the godown would be built in strict compliance with safety standards.

16.The item was voted on and endorsed.

PWSC(97-98)75162GKMaintenance depot for the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department, the Architectural Services Department and the Highways Department at Siu Ho Wan, Lantau Island

17.Responding to a member on the relatively high construction unit cost, D Arch S said that this was on account of the special floor height requirement of the depot of eight metres and the restriction against using diesel hammers in piling work. He added that the construction unit cost for the covered area would only be $10,834 per square metre.

18.The item was voted on and endorsed.

PWSC(97-98)7326LJKowloon City Magistracy Building

19.On the number of courtrooms in the proposed Kowloon City Magistracy Building, the Judiciary Administrator (JA) advised that there would be ten courtrooms of which two would be purpose-built as juvenile courtrooms. An area with built-in facilities would also be provided for conversion into two additional courtrooms in future. This was a significant improvement over the existing San Po Kong Magistracy Building which only had eight courtrooms. As regards the need for three entrances to the building, D Arch S and JA explained the access arrangements had been designed to meet current standards for court buildings where separate entrances for judges, defendants and the public were required.

20.In response to a member on the possibility of accommodating family courtrooms in the building, JA explained that this would not be feasible as family courts fell under the District Court hierarchy. She advised nevertheless that there were plans for including additional family courtrooms in a proposed new District Court Building to be built in 1998. Representatives from the legal professions and parties concerned had been informed of the proposal at a recent meeting of the Panel on Administration of Justice and Legal Services and had indicated support.

21.Regarding the high cost for the piling work, D Arch S explained that percussive piling was prohibited because the building was close to two hospitals and that quieter but more expensive piling methods had to be used. Moreover, hard rock layers underground would also increase piling costs. On the possibility of increasing the development potential of the site, D Arch S advised that the assigned plot ratio of 5 for the project was in accordance with the zoning plan and had taken into account the removal of Kai Tak Airport.

22.The item was voted on and endorsed.

PWSC(97-98)79231LPUrban tactical training complex at Kong Nga Po, Man Kam To

23.Although the present proposal sought funding of only $43.5 million for consultancy fees, members noted that the total project cost for the eventual construction of the urban tactical training complex would be as high as $905.5 million. They therefore sought clarification on the need for the training complex and enquired whether similar projects could be found overseas. In response, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Security (PAS/S) explained that tactical training used to be provided at the military Close-Quarter Battle Range (Urban) at Nim Wan. The facility was however handed over to the People's Liberation Army Garrison in July 1997, and usage of the facility was currently allowed on a limited and temporary basis. The Administration had considered the possibility of negotiating for the permanent use of the facility instead of building a new training complex. However, as the facility was originally designed for military rather than police tactical training, the construction of a mock town specifically designed to replicate the Hong Kong urban environment would best meet Police requirements. Furthermore, a long term and guaranteed access to a training facility was essential for officers of specialist and frontline operational units which included also those in the Police Tactical Unit and the Emergency Unit. In response to a question, the Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) assured members that the Police Force would ensure no reduction in the coverage of police officers serving the community as a result of the tactical training.

24.As regards experience overseas, CSP advised that similar training complexes were found in other countries although the scope and design of the facilities varied considerably. No information was in hand on such facilities, and CSP undertook to provide further information after the meeting. Admin

25.Members expressed concern about the availability of specialist consultants who would be capable of advising on the design and construction of such a unique training complex. They enquired about the qualifications and experience of such specialist consultants, and the type of information which they would be requested to provide to the Force. A member questioned if local expertise would be in a better position to advise on the project which was to be a replica of local situations. D Arch S replied that the specialist consultants were experts in the fields of firearms and gunbattle strategies, and the number of such experts should be few. Members expressed dissatisfaction at the scanty information provided and remarked that this revealed the Police's lack of understanding of its own requirements. Members were also dissatisfied that the Administration was not able to give assurance on the availability of the specialists or information on their experience or background.

26.Members also noted that a consultancy study had been conducted in relation to the project and enquired about the cost that had been incurred for this purpose. PAS/S advised that information on the cost of the preliminary study was not available but that it only covered broad issues such as the general layout. The proposed study would on the other hand focus on the outline schematic proposal, detailed design and contract documentation.

27.On the reasonableness of incurring $43.5 million for the consultancy study, PAS/S said that the Police had submitted the requirements of the training complex to the Architectural Services Department who had made an initial assessment on the cost. D Arch S said that the $4.9 million fee for the specialist consultant was based on estimates prepared by the Police. This represented about a quarter of the consultancy cost of $16.8 million for the architectural discipline of the project which was in line with fees payable to specialist consultants for projects of similar scale such as the construction of a specialised auditorium.

28.A member noted that apart from the pre-contract consultancy under consideration, consultancy service would continue to be required at a later stage. He asked for an estimate on the overall consultancy fees to be incurred. D Arch S said in response that it was not possible to ascertain the total consultancy cost at this stage, although the Administration did have a baseline. A member suggested that under the circumstances, the Administration should request the consultants to provide a realistic estimate on the total consultancy fees for completing the entire complex to guard against requests for unreasonably high fees during the course of the project. D Arch S undertook to consider the member's suggestion.

29.As a number of concerns raised were not satisfactorily addressed at the meeting and in consideration of the significant expenditure to be incurred for the project, the Chairman suggested that the Administration should consider putting the proposal to the Panel on Security. PAS/S agreed. The Deputy Secretary for the Treasury withdrew the item and said that the Administration would provide further information on the proposal. Admin

30.The item was withdrawn by the Administration.

New commitments/Changes in commitments for subvented projects


PWSC(97-98)8436EFStabilisation of slopes within the University campus, phase 3 (CUHK)

31.In response to a member's question on contingency measures for protecting passers-by and buildings near slopes in the University campus, D Arch S advised that such a need did not arise as the slopes referred to were not in imminent danger of failure.

32.The item was voted on and endorsed.

Upgrading of projects to Category A


PWSC(97-98)82286DSStrategic Sewage Disposal Scheme stage I : Completion of sewage tunnel system from Chai Wan and Tseung Kwan O to Kwun Tong and from Kwun Tong to Stonecutters Island

33.Members noted that the proposal had been discussed at length by the Planning, Lands and Works Panel and the Environmental Affairs Panel. Mr Edward HO, in his capacity as Chairman of the Planning, Lands and Works Panel, advised that Panel members considered it unfortunate for the Administration to have to re-enter the construction sites as a result of the contractor's failure in proceeding with the works with due diligence. This had led to a substantial increase in the construction costs. As the Administration had advised that it would be pursuing a claim for losses arising from the original tunnel contracts and for the additional costs for completing the works, Panel members hoped that the Administration would make every endeavour to claim back its losses. They had also emphasised the need for the Administration to learn from this experience and introduce more safeguards in tender documentation and to be more careful in its choice of contractors in future exercises.

34.To ensure satisfactory completion of the planned projects, a member suggested that the type of professional staff with the necessary expertise for performing the work and who were to be appointed by the contractors for carrying out such works should be specified in the contract in future to provide assurance.

35.S for W said in response that the Administration had introduced various measures to safeguard against the recurrence of similar problems. These included the award of the contracts for completing the tunnels to different contractors, more detailed vetting of tender documents and a closer scrutiny on the method of construction proposed by contractors. In considering tenders submitted, the Administration would have regard not only to the contract price but also the ability of the contractors in completing the works. At the Chairman's request, S for W agreed to provide relevant details to the Planning, Lands and Works Panel for further information. Admin

36.Given the present state of the projects, members were generally of the view that they had no other alternative but to support funding for the completion of the tunnels.

37.The item was voted on and endorsed. Mr MOK Ying-fan, on behalf of members of the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood, abstained.

Revision in scope/approved estimate of projects in Category A


PWSC(97-98)8579TBHillside escalator link between Central and Mid-levels

38.In response to a member on the five outstanding claims lodged by the contractor, DHy explained that these were claims for losses due to design changes and disruptions to works as a result of unforeseen underground conditions. The contractors originally claimed a total of $45.6 million but had finally agreed to a settlement of $9.3 million as recommended by the mediator. The Secretary for Justice supported the recommendation, having regard to a number of considerations including the estimated high cost of arbitration if the mediation recommendations were not accepted.

39.The item was voted on and endorsed.

40.The meeting was adjourned at 12:45 pm.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
11 December 1997