SAR shows surprise at reports of rail-route proposal
Tom Mitchell in Guangzhou
The Guangzhou municipal Government has proposed a preliminary route for a new regional express rail line from Guangzhou to Shenzhen and Hong Kong.
Citing sources at the Guangzhou Planning Bureau, newspapers reported that the planned link would begin in Panyu, south of the city centre, and run through Nansha.
It would require the building of an expensive cross-river link - probably a tunnel - from Nansha to Dongguan. From Dongguan, the line would continue south to Shenzhen and on to Hong Kong.
Hong Kong officials were surprised by the reports.
All decisions related to the regional express line's construction are supposed to be reviewed by a bilateral joint expert group, which held its first meeting about the project four weeks ago in Guangzhou.
The group's recommendations are then supposed to be forwarded to the Mainland-Hong Kong Conference on Co-ordination of Major Infrastructure Projects for final approval.
'We have only just started preliminary discussions. The joint expert group met for the first time last month,' a Transport Bureau official said in Hong Kong yesterday. 'Every decision about this rail line should be made by the conference. But there is much work to do before any decisions are finalised.'
Guangzhou Planning Bureau officials contacted yesterday declined to comment on the reports.
The joint expert group is composed of mainland officials from the Ministry of Railways, while Hong Kong is represented by the Transport Bureau.
The conference will be responsible for deciding where the line will cross the Shenzhen-Hong Kong border and what technology it will employ. It must also draft traffic forecasts and assess the project's financial viability.
However, the proposed route as reported by newspapers yesterday is consistent with Guangzhou's longer-term development strategy, which is focused on building up a deep-water port and other heavy industrial facilities on Nansha.
Newspapers also reported yesterday that the Guangdong branch of China Construction Bank had signed an agreement with Guangzhou to lend 12 billion yuan (about HK$11.2 billion) towards Nansha's development over the next four years.
The present rail link between Hong Kong and Guangzhou does not have to cross the Pearl River and the journey takes between 90 minutes and two hours.
Last year, the Hong Kong and Guangdong governments announced that they would consider employing state-of-the-art technology to reduce the travel time to as little as 30 minutes.