Several major infrastructure projects in Hong Kong have recently sparked public outcry over quality issues, cost overruns and other scandals.
I was having lunch with a friend the other day and this topic came up, and we talked about three well-respected project directors in the city that we both missed.
One is Russel Black, who worked for the city’s metro rail operator MTR Corp. between 1972 and 1984, and then in 1992 to 2010 as a project director for the company.
During his tenure, MTR completed the Airport Express, Tseung Kwan O Line, Disneyland Resort Line and Kowloon Southern Link. He graduated from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, with a degree in civil engineering.
Another one is James Blake. He was secretary for works between 1991 and 1995, and was appointed chief executive of Kowloon-Canton Railway Corp. in 2007.
The third one is Douglas Oakervee, who served as project director of the Hong Kong Airport Authority between 1991 and 1998. He was also president of the Institution of Civil Engineers in the United Kingdom between 2003 and 2004.
The Hong Kong International Airport is a key asset of the city and ranks as one of the best terminals in the world. When it opened, it had some issues regarding the luggage and flight display systems, but everything settled down two weeks later.
Oakervee also served as chief tunnel engineer of MTR, and participated in several cross-harbour railway projects.
The three gentlemen, all foreign civil engineers, have worked on the city’s rail projects.
Co-workers held them in high regard, noting that they would always go to the field instead of just reading documents at the office.
The infrastructure projects they had overseen were all delivered on time and within budget, without any major quality problems.
I suppose if any of these three project directors had overseen the Sha Tin-Central Link, we might not have seen the steel bar scandal.
We should be grateful for their contributions to the city’s mega projects, which enabled Hong Kong to capture the title of being the world’s most competitive city in infrastructure in the Global Competitiveness Report 2017–2018 published by the World Economic Forum.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug 3
Translation by Julie Zhu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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