HK$110b expansion Plans for 7 new railways proposed
Secretary for Transport & Housing Prof Anthony Cheung has outlined plans for seven new railway projects to be completed by 2031, with preliminary cost estimates of $110 billion.
Announcing the Railway Development Strategy 2014 recommendations today, Prof Cheung said the new projects are the Northern Link & Kwu Tung Station, Tuen Mun South Extension, East Kowloon Line, Tung Chung West Extension, Hung Shui Kiu Station, South Island Line (West), and North Island Line.
They will lengthen Hong Kong’s railway network from 270km in 2021 to over 300km by 2031. The number of stations will increase from 99 to 114.
The expansion will enable the railway network to cover areas inhabited by 75% of the population and 85% of job locations.
The taking forward of individual railway projects will be subject to the outcome of detailed engineering, environmental and financial studies, as well as updated assessments of passenger transport demand and the availability of resources.
Prior to the completion of individual projects, the Government will assess their impact on other public transport and devise service rationalisation proposals to achieve better co-ordination amongst them, Prof Cheung added.
The proposals come on the back of delays of up to two years and budget overruns in at least three ongoing projects by the MTR Corporation, including a cross-border link to Guangzhou.
With the city facing a man power shortage in the construction industry, the question should be asked whether there are enough construction workers to build the lines. Estimates on the labour shortage range from 8,000 to 10,000 workers.
Taking into account the availability of construction labour, Cheung noted that the Development Bureau had a mechanism to coordinate demand for workers among infrastructure projects.
Prof Cheung was also quoted as saying that
“If [the projects were] built and run by the same organisation, the synergy would be the greatest.”
But when questioned on whether the government might assign the building of the new railways to the MTR Corp considering the current delays to its projects he stated that it was
“too early to tell”
A bureau spokesman said it would consider whether the MTR Corp was able to take on more projects. It would also prepare contingency plans in case the company was not hired.
Lawrence Ng, president of the Construction Sub-Contractors Association, raised his concern about the city’s ability to find workers for more railway projects. “The challenges will be huge and the pressure [on manpower] will also be tremendous,” he said.