The completion date for the Hong Kong section of the Express Rail Link could have been met by MTR Corp Ltd, according to a former director of highways.
Wai Chi-sing, addressing the Legislative Council select committee inquiry, described the original completion date of August 2015 as “reasonable.”
He went on: “According to the information we had back then, we saw that the timetable was justified and reasonable … the timetable was to complete all the lines in 2015-2016. We are talking about four horizontal lines and four vertical lines.”
Wai served as highways director from April 2008 to June 2010 and oversaw the planning stages of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link.
“That is why we had this broad brush completion target of 2015-2016, and then planned a regional express line on that basis.”
When he left his post in 2010, Wai said the progress of the project stood at 1.3 percent, which was below its expected 1.7 percent.
The link has now been delayed until 2017 with the cost running overbudget by at least HK$6.5 billion at HK$71.5 billion.
Wai said the original completion date of June 2015 was pushed back to August 2015, as funding was delayed by six weeks.
“The government also engaged an independent consultant to assess whether the timetable was achievable. According to the consultant, the timetable was tight but achievable.”
NeoDemocrats lawmaker Gary Fan Kwok- wai was disappointed, saying Wai had followed the same line as current Director of Highways Peter Lau Ka-keung.
“When [Wai] was director of highways, he was responsible for the link … played down what he did and also tried to shirk responsibility of the government, of the judgment errors before the start of the link,” Fan said.
During the tender process, when 11 contracts were signed to build the Hong Kong section, Wai said none of the contractors had expressed fears the deadline could not be achieved, or asked for an extension.
The cost of the project may rise even further, according to Legco transport panel chairman Michael Tien Puk-sun, who said last month the final bill could soar to HK$90 billion because of the two-year delay.