Law and Enforcement

HK ELECTRIC BLAMES “SITE CONSTRAINTS” FOR PEDESTRIAN SAFETY FIASCO

Pedestrians were forced into a busy main road by a pavement closure – HEC said it followed the rules while Highways Department said regulations were broken

In a lengthy and contradictory statement, Hongkong Electric (HEC) says there is no question of it trying to evade safety laws at worksites, after a site in Wan Chai was found to have entirely closed off a pavement, forcing pedestrians into fast-moving traffic on a busy main road.

Transit Jam highlighted the case last week, after a Highways Department (HyD) investigation found serious problems at the Johnston Road site.

A HyD dossier revealed the worksite was “in non-compliance concerning the arrangement of pedestrian diversion”.

“Under the relevant permit conditions, HEC would have to maintain proper access for the pedestrians following relevant HyD code of practice and standard drawings when carrying out the emergency works,” says a HyD spokesman.

Police walking past the scene shrugged off problems and said citizens with complaints should “call 999”. The police’s Road Management Office had earlier approved the works, which other officials later said were non-compliant

But a HEC spokeswoman says the company had done nothing wrong. “Contrary to [the Transit Jam] report, we have obtained all necessary government approvals,” says the spokeswoman, claiming the site design was given the go-ahead by the police’s Road Management Office, a small office on the 3rd floor of Happy Valley Police Station.

“The inadequacy at the Johnston Road works arose from site constraints and site management and there is no question of us trying to skip rules which are devised to protect workers and pedestrians’ safety,” says the firm.

Roadworks require approval from Transport Department (TD), police and HyD, with Temporary Traffic Arrangements (TTA) designed to keep road users safe.

A TD investigation found there was no record of HEC applying for a TTA in that location in the last six months.

But HEC says it did not need a roadworks TTA as “road work was confined to the footpath only”.

According to the permit displayed at the site, HEC was required to display “consented temporary traffic arrangements” – Hongkong Electric said it didn’t need such plans, given the work covered only the pedestrian path.

HEC’s statement raises questions as to why closing footpaths – forcing pedestrians into a busy road – requires no safety approval or traffic arrangement. A TD spokeswoman says the department has nothing else to say on the matter, and referred questions to HyD.

While claiming its work was in full compliance, HEC also says it has “investigated our contractor’s handling of the work and taken disciplinary action against non-compliance.”

“We acknowledge the inadequacy of the situation and the inconvenience this had posed to pedestrians,” says the HEC spokeswoman.

54 pedestrians were killed and 2,485 injured walking in roads or crossing roads in 2019, according to TD figures, accounting for 93% of pedestrian deaths and 87% of pedestrian injuries.

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