Route 10 fall-back wins funding

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 January, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 January, 2002, 12:00am

Legislators yesterday approved initial funding for a road project which could provide the Government with a fall-back option should funding for the controversial Route 10 project be rejected.

However, some members of Legco's public works committee criticised officials for presenting the funding request for the new road without design details, feasibility studies or cost estimates.

The road would connect a planned bridge to Shenzhen with the existing Route 3, via the proposed Deep Bay Link. It would prevent the multi-billion-dollar bridge becoming a road to nowhere should a vote on $134 million in funding for Route 10 design work fail. Route 10 was partially intended to link the bridge to Lantau.

The Route 10 vote was deferred yesterday after time ran out.

The latest plan was made public yesterday. It has not been included in previous government papers on the Shenzhen project.

'It is asking us to sign a blank cheque to allow you to withdraw money,' said The Frontier's Emily Lau Wai-hing, who is a member of Legco's public works committee. 'You do not even know what you are going to build but you ask us for money.'

The committee yesterday approved $153.8 million for design work on the Shenzhen bridge and Deep Bay link. The amount included $26.9 million for the new road.

Officials have argued that the controversial $22 billion Route 10 is crucial to the success of the Shenzhen project.

However, legislators and former officials have said that Route 3, which runs parallel to Route 10 and which the operator says is under-used, could service the Shenzhen project, which is due for completion in early 2006.

Director of Highways Lo Yiu-ching yesterday admitted presenting the new road project for approval without details was unusual. But he said the cross-border bridge project could be delayed if normal procedures were followed.

He said he had no idea about the alignment of the road, how wide or how long it would be: 'It is a very special situation and preliminary designs will be done once the funding is approved.'

Normally, the Government would finish initial studies and designs and be satisfied a project is feasible before seeking funds.

Democrat Albert Chan Wai-yip said: 'I have never heard of such an absurd thing. It is irresponsible for us to approve the money for a project with no idea whether the project will be built at all.'

Independent legislator Andrew Wong Wang-fat questioned what would happen if the road was found to be unfeasible.

Deputy Secretary for Transport Paul Tang Kwok-wai said it was too early to say what the road would be like.

The subcommittee eventually voted 14-8 to endorse the funding request, with backing from members of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB), the Liberal Party and independents.

The DAB, Liberals and the Frontier have said they will vote against Route 10.