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A more independent MTR board is one solution to our rail woes

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One reason the latest scandals over railway construction in Hong Kong came as such a shock is that they are eerily reminiscent of another era which most of us probably thought we had put behind us.

Back in the early 1970s, corner cutting in the construction industry – and the corruption that facilitated it – was rampant.

As soon as the Independent Commission Against Corruption was set up in 1974, the stories came tumbling out: how public projects could be deliberately “over-engineered” to provide an extra safety cushion, so that skimping on materials and workmanship standards would not endanger the finished product too much, and would also provide a margin to cover corrupt payments to works inspectors. Contractors made their profits, site supervisory staff got their bribes, the only victims were the taxpayers, who paid over the odds for the roads and other public facilities being constructed.

Similar problems afflicted the private sector.

Judging from the recent reports of shenanigans in building works at To Kwa Wan and Hung Hom stations, ultra-lax supervision is back in vogue. The only question is whether this is being facilitated by corruption or “merely” lackadaisical supervision and management.

It says something about the seriousness of the situation that, given the choice, we would probably prefer the latter.

MTR’s ties with contractor under scrutiny in corner-cutting scandal

One particularly disturbing aspect of the recent revelations is the claim that cheating was going on in the........

© South China Morning Post