Three rail lines may be on the cards, says bureau
At least three more railway projects - including a Siu Sai Wan extension and a spur line parallel to the Island Line - could be proposed after the government decides this year on the rail projects for the next stage of post-2020 development.
The Transport and Housing Bureau said it did not mention these extensions when it singled out three links last month for the next round, as the need for them was largely reliant on which of the proposals the public endorsed.
However, transport analysts say the public was deprived of the full picture when the proposed rail links were not mentioned previously. They rejected claims that the rail lines are inter-dependent.
The bureau last month released a study commissioned by engineering firm Aecom a year ago on railway development after 2020.
It singled out for public discussion two domestic lines - the Northern Link from Kam Tin to Lok Ma Chau, and the Tsuen Wan-Tuen Mun Link - and a multibillion-dollar cross-border railway connecting Hong Kong and Shenzhen airports.
Responding to queries from the South China Morning Post, the bureau said that was only the first stage which 'focuses on major regional railway corridors'.
In the second stage, it would study localised improvements and congestion relief.
In the second stage, for instance, commuters could travel directly from Siu Sai Wan to either Chai Wan or Heng Fa Chuan, while in East Kowloon, commuters could travel directly to Central and Admiralty without having to change at North Point.
'As the major regional corridors will affect the traffic distribution of the whole network and may potentially shift bottlenecks, it is logical to divide the study into two stages,' a bureau spokeswoman said.
But an MTR Corp executive, who declined to be identified, says it is hard to see how, for instance, the airport link - which has a spur line connecting Tuen Mun to the Tung Chung Line - could have an impact on whether the North Island Line should be built.
'That spur line mainly serves movements between New Territories west and north Lantau, while the North Island Line serves to ease the mounting burden of North Point as an interchange station and handles movements between East Kowloon and Island west,' the executive said.
The two proposed domestic lines would also have little effect on the extensions, the executive says.
It is also disappointing that no railway projects were proposed to facilitate the east-west movements, the executive says, noting the MTR's suggestion from a long time ago to connect Sha Tin or Tai Wai with Lai King and Tsuen Wan - a route now dominated by minibuses.
Hung Wing-tat, a veteran transport analyst, says it is a waste of public funds to split the study of the railway blueprint into two phases.
'The government paid for the study and we expect the consultant to give us a thorough report on all possible lines, and not just part of it,' Hung said.
'I don't think these lines are so inter-dependent on one another. I wonder if they wanted to rush to announce the results before the new administration takes over.'
Of the three proposed railway lines, officials believe the airport link might be the most profitable following the addition of two spur lines, which would attract travellers between Hung Shui Kiu and Qianhai two newly developed areas in Hong Kong and the mainland, respectively.