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LCQ15: Construction works of Shatin to Central Link

     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Chiang Lai-wan and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, in the Legislative Council today (June 4):


     Earlier on, monuments were unearthed at the construction site of the To Kwa Wan Station of the MTR Shatin to Central Link (SCL), thus affecting the progress of the related works. It has been reported that, since the commencement of the SCL works, 50% of the operators of shops along Ma Tau Wai Road have closed down their businesses. Some shop operators are worried that the delay in the completion of the SCL works may result in more shop closures. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) given that an archaeological survey conducted in 2010 in the Sacred Hill Area revealed that the area covered by the SCL works had certain archaeological potential, whether it knows if the MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL) had conducted any related site investigation and formulated contingency measures before the commencement of the SCL works; if the MTRCL had, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(2)@as it has been reported that the delay in the completion of the SCL works may lead to the loss of public money up to $1 million each day, whether the authorities have discussed with the MTRCL any proposal to expedite completion of the works so as to reduce the loss of public money and make the railway service available to the public as early as possible; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(3) whether it knows if the MTRCL had, before the commencement of the SCL works, explained to the shop operators concerned the possible impacts of the works on them to facilitate them to make corresponding arrangements early; if the MTRCL had, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(4) whether it knows the number and the outcome of cases of claims filed with the MTRCL by shop operators whose businesses have been affected by the SCL works, as well as the number of rejected cases among them and the reasons for rejection; if the relevant information is not available, of the reasons for that; and

(5) given that some shop operators have relayed to me that the claims handling mechanism of the MTRCL is very complicated, whether the authorities have assisted those operators whose businesses have been affected by the SCL works in filing claims against the MTRCL; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     Since mid-2008, the Government and the MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL) have conducted extensive public consultation on the Shatin to Central Link (SCL) scheme. 11 District Councils along the railway alignment were consulted by introducing to them the SCL project, reporting on the project progress and seeking their views on the railway scheme. Moreover, various channels were also employed to provide comprehensive information to the public and district consultation activities were organised to brief community groups and residents on the SCL scheme and collect their opinions for further improving the railway scheme.

     The statutory consultation stage of the SCL project commenced when the railway scheme was gazetted on November 26, 2010 under the Railways Ordinance. Taking into consideration public concerns and views, the Government proceeded with two stages of scheme amendments gazetted on July 15 and November 11, 2011 respectively and objections were handled in accordance with the statutory procedures. The Chief Executive in Council finally authorised the SCL railway scheme on March 27, 2012 under the Railways Ordinance.

     My reply to the five parts of Dr Hon Chiang Lai-wan's question is as follows:

     In conducting the environmental impact assessment (EIA) under the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance, the consultant appointed by the MTRCL has assessed the impact on cultural heritage arising from the SCL railway scheme, including the potential existence of archaeological finds at the previous location of the Sacred Hill and its vicinity within the To Kwa Wan Station area. The EIA report for the SCL therefore recommended that an archaeological survey-cum-excavation (Remark 1) be carried out at a specified area prior to the commencement of the construction works of the To Kwa Wan Station. After consultation with the Advisory Council on the Environment and making available the EIA Report for public inspection and comments, the EIA Report for the SCL was approved by the Director of Environmental Protection in February 2012.

     The archaeological survey-cum-excavation within the construction site of the To Kwa Wan Station area was carried out by an independent archaeologist engaged by the SCL contractor and under the close supervision of the Antiquities and Monuments Office (AMO). The fieldworks commenced in November 2012 at the first archaeological work area (see Annex 1 submitted by the MTRCL for its location). A square-shaped stone well dated to Song Dynasty, which is of very high archaeological value, was discovered at this location. The Government has changed the alignment of the proposed carriageway of Road L9 of the Stage 5 Infrastructure Works in the Kai Tak Development Area, so as to divert the carriageway from the location of the well to facilitate its future display to the public. Having consulted the views from the Antiquities Advisory Board (AAB), it is decided to preserve the stone well in-situ because the condition of the stone well is intact and it can reflect the traces of people's living in the past. As the location of the stone well is outside the footprint of the station, the preservation of the stone well in-situ would not affect the construction works of the station. The other key findings include ceramic shards, coins and remnants of archaeological features dated from Song-Yuan Dynasties and recent epoch. These archaeological finds have been retrieved to facilitate further excavation to deeper levels in search for other cultural relics. The excavation at this work area has reached the sterile layer, 2.3 to 4.8 metres below ground level. The archaeological fieldworks were completed in December 2013.

     In relation to the above archaeological survey-cum-excavation, the independent archaeologist has submitted an interim report to the AMO. The AMO has also kept reporting to the AAB throughout the archaeological work (Remark 2). All the related documents are available for public viewing at AMO's website. The independent archaeologist is continuing with the study and analysis of the relevant archaeological finds, and is preparing the final report. The final report is expected to be submitted to the AMO by the end of this year. The SCL contractor has resumed the construction works in phases within the first archaeological work area where the archaeological survey-cum-excavation was completed.

     Besides, when the SCL contractor was carrying out piling works at the launching shaft location for tunnel boring machines (ie the second archaeological work area in Annex 1), over 500 coins dated to Song Dynasty were found. The independent archaeologist employed by the SCL contractor then immediately reported the discovery to the AMO. At the request and close supervision of the AMO, an archaeological watching brief (AWB) (Remark 3) at the launching shaft area (ie the second archaeological work area) commenced in December 2013. At the moment, the archaeological fieldworks at the second archaeological work area were completed, except for that in the Area T1 which is of about 400 square metres at the south-west corner of the second archaeological work area. The excavation at the rest of the second archaeological work area has reached the sterile layer, which is about 2.6 to 4.5 metres below ground level, and the archaeological fieldworks were completed. With the consent of AMO, the contractor has resumed works in phases in this area (except for Area T1).

     Another square-shaped stone well dated to Song Dynasty and stone building remnants were discovered at the Area T1, but this stone well was not as intact as the previously discovered stone well. At this stage, The MTRCL has implemented suitable measures to protect the stone well and the stone building remnants. Besides, two pits were also found within the Area T1 and its vicinity. The nature and function of these pits have to be confirmed after further investigation.

     At present, other than the Area T1 of the second archaeological work area, the archaeological work has been extended to the third archaeological work area upon the request of the AMO (see Annex 1). Under the close supervision of the AMO, the independent archaeologist commenced the archaeological work in April 2014 in areas within the third archaeological work area. The MTRCL has suspended the construction works in this area in order not to affect the archaeological work. It is anticipated that the relevant archaeological work could be completed by the third quarter of this year. After study and analysis, the Government would formulate suitable preservation options and measures for all the archaeological finds discovered. The AMO would then make a more comprehensive and specific conclusion after consultation with the AAB.

     The Transport and Housing Bureau has been paying close attention to the archaeological discovery and making the best arrangement in terms of the construction; the MTRCL has suspended the construction works in the area where the archaeological work is ongoing, except for those relating to the archaeological excavation. Under the close supervision of the AMO, the archaeological finds unearthed have been properly protected.

     As regards the area where the archaeological work was completed, the MTRCL may resume the works gradually. The archaeological work and discovery have inevitably delayed the construction works with the actual impact subject to detailed assessment. The Highways Department has been studying with the MTRCL the rearrangement of works sequence, modification of originally planned construction method, and formulation of suitable options of modifying the station design, with a view not only to preserving the archaeological discovery, but also minimising the impact to the works programme.

     As regards part (2) of the question, the works of the SCL Ma Tau Wai Station involve the construction of an underground station underneath the densely populated Ma Tau Wai Road with busy traffic. Thus, the works will inevitably bring inconvenience and impact to nearby shops. As the project manager entrusted by the Government to implement the SCL project, the MTRCL has maintained communication with shop operators in Ma Tau Wai, paid them regular visits, distributed to them works notices to explain the latest progress and arrangement, and made the best possible works arrangement to cater for their needs, with a view to minimising the impact so caused.  Take the hoarding for the works site at the footpath west of Ma Tau Wai Road as an example. Before the hoarding was erected, the MTRCL had maintained dialogue with shop operators in terms of the height and design of the hoarding, the way the names of the shops were displayed, illumination, etc, in order to maintain the pedestrian environment for minimising the impact to shops and pedestrians.

     As regards parts (4) and (5) of the question, any person suffering from loss or damage incurred from railway works may serve written notice to the Secretary for Transport and Housing (the Secretary) to claim compensation before the expiration of one year from the completion date of the railway works. A claim submitted to the Secretary should include information of the claimant, the relevant land or property, the amount of the claim, how the amount claimed is calculated, etc. Claims can be resolved by negotiations between both parties, not necessarily involving judicial procedures. If agreement cannot be reached on compensation within seven months from the receipt of the claim by the Secretary, either party may refer the claim to the Lands Tribunal to launch the judicial procedures for determination. The decision of the Lands Tribunal on the amount of compensation payable is final. Having said that, both parties may appeal against the decision of the Lands Tribunal on a point of law.

     From 2012 when the SCL project commenced and up to April this year, the Government received a total of five written claims made under the Railways Ordinance relating to temporary road closure. One claim has been completed and the Government has informed the claimant of the outcome of the claim. The other four claims are being processed.

     To help members of the public understand the claims procedures prescribed in the Railways Ordinance, the Government has published "Construction of the Shatin to Central Link - Information Note on Compensation Matters under the Railways Ordinance (Cap 519)" (Annex 2). It is available for free at the Shatin to Central Link Information Centre in To Kwa Wan.

Remark 1: Archaeological survey-cum-excavation is commonly conducted before construction within a specified area with archaeological potential. The archaeological survey is to define the precise horizontal extent and the nature of the archaeological deposits while the excavation is applied to this confined area to retrieve the archaeological data completely. The archaeologist needs to submit a proposal of the archaeological work to the Antiquities and Monuments Office (AMO), including the method and the procedure of the archaeological excavation. With the approval of the AMO and support of the Antiquities Advisory Board (AAB), the Antiquities Authority (ie the Secretary for Development) will issue a licence to the applicant in carrying out the archaeological work in accordance with the proposal of the archaeological work and under the close monitoring of the AMO.

Remark 2: The AMO issued four briefs (in December 2012, and March, September and November 2013) to the AAB regarding the archaeological survey-cum-excavation conducted by the independent archaeological expert. The AMO also arranged a site visit for the AAB members on November 27, 2013 regarding the archaeological finds. At the AAB meeting on December 4, 2014, the AAB has discussed the preservation arrangement and provided views on the future interpretation of the archaeological discoveries. In addition, the AMO subsequently issued two briefs in April and May 2014 to the AAB regarding the work progress in the second archaeological work area and arranged a site visit for the AAB members on May 2, 2014.

Remark 3: AWB refers to any archaeological work conducted within a project for non-archaeological purpose. AWB allows archaeological methods to be applied by archaeologists once any archaeological remains are identified in the course of the earth movement works of the development project. A proposal is required to specify the aim, method, and potential mitigation measures for the AWB. AWB could turn into an archaeological excavation if significant archaeological remains are discovered. Once the AWB commences, the archaeologist needs to report any archaeological remains discovered to the AMO. The AMO will then report the related discoveries to the AAB. The AMO will also regularly oversee the related archaeological work.

Ends/Wednesday, June 4, 2014
Issued at HKT 15:16


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