Superhighway veto 'could cost $295b'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 January, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 January, 2002, 12:00am

The SAR risked losing hundreds of billion of dollars over the next 20 years if a planned superhighway network was vetoed by legislators, the transport chief warned yesterday.

Secretary for Transport Nicholas Ng Wing-fui also conceded the Government had to rush to build the Route 10 network because it had to co-ordinate with the Shenzhen Western Corridor cross-border bridge project.

Citing his bureau's estimates, Mr Ng said the superhighway network - which will help logistics and encourage cross-border economic activity - could earn Hong Kong $295 billion in 20 years.

'The economic returns are so huge we should not overlook them,' said Mr Ng, in lobbying legislators at yesterday's transport panel meeting. He said the proposed Shenzhen Western Corridor and Route 10 projects were interdependent.

The proposed $22 billion Route 10, a toll highway scheduled to be completed in 2008, could provide a link to the Shenzhen Western Corridor and Deep Bay Link in Yeung Long.

But most panellists remained unconvinced and asked for more time to study the projects in view of the huge investment.

Democrat Albert Ho Chun-yan urged more studies. 'There is no need to rush. The existing Route 3 is under-used and can carry more traffic for the next 10 years, allowing time for the Government to study the Route 10 network,' he said.

Non-affiliated legislator Eric Li Ka-cheung, of the Breakfast Group of independent lawmakers, said: 'We cannot be too careful. The amount of $22 billion is almost the sum of all salary tax payments in a year. When West Rail is completed [next year], it can also help ease traffic in the Northwest New Territories.'

Legislators are expected to vote on January 30 whether to approve funding for the design of the highway network.