The government will press ahead with implementing the proposed revamp of Central Piers starting first with getting funding after the Town Planning Board gave the green light last Friday.
A spokesperson for the Civil Engineering and Development Department said in a statement, issued through the Development Bureau, that the government is planning to consult the Legislative Council’s Panel on Transport on 24 May regarding the project.
It would then seek funding from Legco’s Public Works Subcommittee and Finance Committee in mid 2013.
Construction is scheduled to start by the end of this year for phased completion of Central Piers Nos 4, 5 and 6 between 2015 and 2018.
“As the project is still at the design stage, a more accurate cost estimate is not yet available,” the spokesperson said.
According to the estimates given for the government budget for the financial year 2013-14, the cost for the improvements and adding another floors on the three piers was estimated at HK$559 million.
Last week the Town Planning Board’s Metro Planning Committee approved the planning application by Transport Department to construct one and a half additional commercial floors above Central Piers Nos 4 to 6 as well as convert the upper floors for the same piers for shops and services.
The CEDD spokesperson said the government would lease the additional floors to the ferry operators who are already operating ferry services from the piers.
“The ferry operators will in turn sublet these additional floors for commercial use in order to generate non-fare box revenue to cross-subsidise the operation of the six major outlying island ferry routes,” the spokesperson said.
These six routes include Central to Cheung Chau, Central to Mui Wo and Central to Peng Chau.
The project could have been approved last September when the Town Planning Board met to consider the application.
However concerns about pedestrian access over public open space on the three piers meant a decision was deferred to allow time for the government to rethink access.
The proposal to add more floors at the piers has had a difficult gestation period.
Hong Kong Ferry (Holdings) (0050), an associate of developer Henderson Land (0012), originally put forward the idea to the government in 1993 during the reprovisioning of ferry piers during reclamation in Central as part of the infrastructure projects for the Airport Core Programme for the new airport.
After a prolonged dispute over the cost of piling and curtain walling for the piers and the land premium to be paid for development rights on the piers, the Executive Council eventually pulled the plug on the project in 1998.
The government issued a writ in 1999 to the company demanding payment of HK$55.4 million for work carried out by the government.
A long legal wrangle ensued with the government winning in 2006 only to see the company successfully appeal against parts of the judgement in 2008.
In November 2008, the company released a profit warning and announced that it had settled the dispute with the government, agreeing to pay HK$125 million.