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New rail lines planned

Clear the Air says:  Government cannot have its cake and eat it – by all means connect Chep Lap Kok and Bao’an  Shenzhen airports, but do away with the third runway project (that has not been granted additional landing rights anyway !)

Three projects in the New Territories are set to begin in 2020, but doubts have already been raised over one
Anita Lam
Apr 21, 2012

The city can expect to see three railway projects, all in the New Territories, starting from 2020 under a proposal set to underpin the next stage of rail development.

All three are likely to require huge subsidies due to the dispersed populations and low-density housing in the areas they serve, officials warn.

Two of the lines are domestic: a northern link, which will connect Kam Sheung Road and the Lok Ma Chau border checkpoint, and a Tuen Mun to Tsuen Wan link.

The third is a cross-border connection between the Hong Kong and Shenzhen airports. This will include two spur lines that extend to the West Rail and Tung Chung lines in order to maximise patronage.

The proposal comes as the New Territories’ residential population is expected to jump 40 per cent by 2031, compared with 10 per cent in urban areas, due to new developments in Hung Shui Kiu, Kwu Tung North and Fanling.

The Transport and Housing Bureau launched a three-month public consultation yesterday to seek Hongkongers’ views on whether they prefer road-based transport to railways in these areas. Railway lines are costlier and loss-making, as they have to be built across vast tracts of land that serve low-density populations.

The link connecting Chek Lap Kok airport and Shenzhen’s Baoan airport via Qianhai appears to hold the greatest economic value, a transport expert says, pointing to the extensions to the West Rail and Tung Chung lines.

The Northern Link will complete a loop connecting the West and East rail lines, while the Tuen Mun-Tsuen Wan Link will provide more direct access between the two areas.

However, the third link could be particularly challenging, as it would pass through a lot of countryside with steep terrain and few developments.

Professor Hung Wing-tat, a veteran transport analyst at Polytechnic University, called it the least effective among the three proposed projects.

“This link will divert passengers who now use the West Rail to travel between Tuen Mun and Tsuen Wan, which means it will generate little new traffic,” Hung said.

“Areas along the link, such as Siu Lam and Tsing Lung Tau, are largely countryside land. Not only will it fail to create much traffic, but it could also spark controversy [over environmental issues].”

The link, however, would provide a third connection point between the cross-border airport railway and the MTR via the Tsuen Wan line.

The airport link – which Hung hailed as the most economically crucial – was first proposed in 2007 but was shelved amid doubts about its financial viability. Academics and lawmakers also questioned if the line would harm the competitiveness of Chek Lap Kok by directing local passengers to Shenzhen for mainland flights. In 2009, the project was estimated to cost at least HK$50 billion.


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