Ferry travellers disrupted
TENS of thousands of ferry commuters will have to walk across a building site to get home when new piers for the outlying islands open next month.
Passengers will have to go through a 130-metre-long covered walkway from Exchange Square to reach the new Hong Kong Ferry piers at the end of the Central reclamation.
When those piers open, the existing outlying islands and central harbour services piers will close.
More than 50,000 people use the piers on weekdays and the figure rises sharply at the weekends as visitors head for the islands. They face disruption for several years as the walkway will be moved twice.
Construction work on the piers will continue even while the ships are docking. Hong Kong Ferry plans to build office blocks above the piers and extensive work still needs to be done.
But the chief engineer of the Territory Development Department in the project manager's office, Peter So Yu-ho, said the work posed no risk to passengers.
'Everything has been calculated so that there is no risk,' he said. The pier structure had been carefully checked so that at each stage in the construction process there was no risk of any section becoming overloaded and collapsing.
Hoardings would be put up to prevent anything that fell hitting people below.
'It will be just like any other building site,' he said. 'There will be scaffolding to protect pedestrians.' Mr So said if the piers were not opened until all work was finished then the Central reclamation would not be finished on time.
He said the first walkway would not be permanent. 'A temporary walkway could be constructed 20 to 30 metres in from the eastern sea wall,' he said.
Once construction work on the eastern sea wall had been completed, the walkway would be moved there.
But even that walkway will only last a few years. A Hong Kong Ferry spokesman said it would be replaced once construction work on the airport railway was finished.
'We will build a modern air-conditioned walkway to the station and to Exchange Square,' he said.
The piers could be open by the end of April or early May, Mr So said, after a new access road was built for buses and taxis. He said officials also had to check the piers for safety.
When the new piers open, passengers will no longer be able to buy magazines or snacks before they board their ferries. Hong Kong Ferry said there was no space at the new piers for news stands or food stalls.