KCRC lacks vision needed to solve complex issues

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 September, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 September, 2000, 12:00am

I refer to the letters on the Lok Ma Chau spur line, from James Blake of the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation and William Shiu, for the Secretary for Transport, (South China Morning Post, August 17 and September 7, respectively).

Sorry Mr Blake, but you are too busy forcing your way round the pot-hole in front of you and not looking at others further down the road. Sharing the load between two places will help the congestion at Lowu, but that is an oversimplification. The answer is more trains, but the proposal for a line from Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau will not provide enough in the long term. The extension will join the existing line, so the total number of trains available cannot increase, they will get shared between the two stations. It is a stop-gap measure.

East Rail will reach its ultimate capacity in the foreseeable future; the possible number of trains per hour is finite. The trains cannot be longer, double-decking is not viable and speed is limited. Added to this, they now propose to drop more people on to the line at Tai Wai, from the Ma On Shan railway, plus a proposal for a freight line from Kwai Chung to Tai Wai, which will disrupt passenger services further.

The KCRC says it will start empty trains from Sha Tin, to pick up the Tai Wai passengers, but where will the empty trains come from? They can only come at the expense of the potential number of trains available from further north.

The extension to Lok Ma Chau is only half an answer and probably not the best one.

Originally the West Rail project included a line to the border. This proposal is retained in the latest Railway Development Study ('RDS-2'). It would take little imagination to extend West Rail to the border at Lok Ma Chau, instead of building the Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau link, thus providing two separate lines to the border, with greater total capacity. It would also provide an alternative when one line broke down and pave the way for other possibilities in 'RDS-2'.

By sharing the load on two lines the problems on East Rail would be manageable, Ma On Shan passengers would get on a train and the Kwai Chung to Tai Wai freight connection would work. This offers a better overall solution in the medium to long term, but instead the KCRC is building the reduced West Rail scheme, with capacity already compromised by allowing for only eight-car trains and only a short-term answer to the Lowu problem.

Turning to the Ma On Shan line, there is space at Tai Wai for a direct cross-platform connection for the majority of expected patrons in both directions.

The KCRC is going for a cheapskate option here as well. The new line will run on the right instead of the left and achieve a more or less cross-platform connection in one direction only.

This will be incompatible with the other railways in Hong Kong, so the future line from Tai Wai to Central, proposed in 'RDS-2', cannot be an extension of the Ma On Shan line.

The KCRC appears to have lost the vision and imagination to solve these complex issues while retaining future options. Sorry Mr Blake, but you should stop complaining that you cannot have your own way and find better answers to the overall picture.