Lawmakers dismayed over new plan for Sha Tin-Central rail link

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 July, 2007, 12:00am

Lawmakers reacted in dismay yesterday over proposals that three stations on the proposed Sha Tin-Central rail link - two of them on Hong Kong Island and one in Kowloon - may be scrapped or relocated.

The cross-harbour section of the rail line - spanning more than 10 stations from Tai Wai to Central - may also be delayed because the sites of the stations could not be determined until the final plan for the Wan Chai Development Phase II was released, legislators heard.

Philip Yung Wai-hung, the Deputy Secretary for Transport and Housing, told lawmakers there was strong demand for Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation's cross-harbour section of the project, which would provide a direct route to Hong Kong for south-east Kowloon commuters. But a timetable for construction, and whether it would be in different phases, would not be set until January. The detailed draft would also cover the funding method and the final route.

Likely to be removed from the plan, according to the KCRC and its partner, MTR Corp, are the proposed Central South terminus near Lan Kwai Fong, a station near the waterfront at Causeway Bay North, and a station at Tsz Wan Shan in Kowloon.

Mr Yung said soil at the Central South site was too loose. 'Suitable locations are too far from the centre, while there is no available land within the centre,' he said.

MTR Corp's chief design manager, Malcolm Gibson, justified the removal of the Causeway Bay North station, citing the disruption the work would bring to traffic and businesses.

'The existing Causeway Bay station already covers a good catchment area,' Mr Gibson said, adding that passengers would be able to transfer between the new link's Admiralty station and the existing MTR station without paying a second boarding charge because the two railways would by then be merged.

But DAB lawmaker Lau Kong-wah urged the MTR Corp to give the amendments a second thought.

'The rail line was meant to provide a direct route to the city for commuters in the New Territories; in this way they would still need to transit.'

The 100,000 residents in Tsz Wan Shan were also disappointed after the KCRC said it was not technically feasible for the railway to pass through the area, which is up to 120 metres up a slope.

But the two corporations stressed that they were open about other possibilities, including the options of a hillside escalator, minibus network or a travelator network.

Some lawmakers were also dismayed about a proposal to move the depot from Kai Tak to the old Tai Hom Village in Diamond Hill, as they feared the project would create serious noise and air pollution.

The MTR Corp said the depot would be built underground to minimise its impact on the environment. Unionist legislator Chan Yuen-han suspected the site was changed because the property development proposed for the land at Kai Tak had made it too valuable.