20 February 2019
MTR Corp's CEO Jay Walder is drawing criticism over a delayed high-speed rail project. Photo: HKEJ
MTR Corp's CEO Jay Walder is drawing criticism over a delayed high-speed rail project. Photo: HKEJ

MTR chief Walder faces blame for high-speed rail project delay

MTR Corporation’s (00066.HK) chief executive Jay Walder has come under fire over issues related the delay in the construction of the Hong Kong section of the Hong Kong-Shenzhen-Guangzhou Express Rail Link.

As the person in charge of the project, Walder should be held accountable, the Hong Kong Economic Journal cited Michael Tien, former chairman of Kowloon-Canton Railway Corp, which merged into the MTR group in 2007, as saying.

Rather than come clean, Walder is alleged to have persuaded government officials, including Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung, not to disclose the issues.

In a press briefing on Saturday, Cheung said the railway operator insisted in November that the high-speed line can be launched as per schedule. The government, therefore, did not give the correct picture even though there were some doubts.

Cheung also faced questions about the government’s lack of due diligence in appointing Lee Chack-fan, a professor at the University of Hong Kong, to lead an independent committee assigned for investigating the delay.

Less than three hours after the appointment, media reports flagged Lee as having potential conflict of interest, as he sits on the board of a contractor involved in the project.

Tien, who chairs the railway sub-committee at the Legislative Council, said MTR’s board should have discussed in its monthly meeting the progress of the high-speed railway project. The group’s projects manager Chew Tai-chong should not be made the scapegoat for the delay, as his boss Walder ultimately has the responsibility to supervise the project, Tien said.

Some lawmakers, meanwhile, are said to be planning to request Walder to resign from his top role at MTR. The railway sub-committee will hold a meeting Monday. 

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