Rail officials plan big projects after merger

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 October, 2007, 12:00am

Top officials of the new railway giant pledged yesterday to push forward a number of long-stalled projects now that the rail operations of the MTRC and KCRC are being merged.

Chow Chung-kong, chief executive of the MTR Corporation, told minority shareholders at yesterday's extraordinary general meeting that he hoped the government would offer some good news about infrastructure development in today's policy address by the chief executive.

'We share the same insight,' Mr Chow said, responding to a shareholder who said she longed for a rail line in southern district. 'I also want [the South Island Line] to be on board soon, but the government has the final say.'

Among the railway projects being studied by the government, Mr Chow said the future West Island Line would likely be the first on which it would reach a conclusion. 'There are government policies already in place to support the plan.'

Other projects on the government's agenda include the South Island Line, Sha Tin-Central Rail Link and the Regional Express - the local section of the Hong Kong-Shenzhen-Guangzhou Express Rail Link.

The Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation, planner of the Sha Tin and Regional Express projects, has submitted draft routes to the government and is awaiting approval.

The Transport and Housing Bureau is expected to come up with a detailed timetable and a final draft of the Sha Tin-Central Rail Link by the end of this year.

Transport analyst Hung Wing-tat said the merger had enhanced MTR Corp's bargaining power to tap into the mainland market.

'The mainland is a market with potential so huge that the MTRC does not want to miss it. Railway coverage in the mainland is currently as low as 1 per cent,' he said.

'MTRC - itself a world-class company - is in an even better position to gain future mainland railway projects now that it has grown bigger and stronger after merging with the KCRC.'

MTR Corp chairman Raymond Chien Kuo-fung said that between 2009 and 2018 the entire railway network would be extended by 75km. It would most certainly extend beyond the border into the mainland, and with the construction of the Regional Express expected to be completed by 2014, a trip to Guangzhou could be shortened from two hours to 48 minutes.

The government is also exploring the construction of a railway to link Hong Kong International Airport to the airport in Baoan, Shenzhen, which was brought one step closer to reality when the Lok Ma Chau Spur Line opened in August.

From idea to reality

How the merger happened:

June 2002 The government starts a feasibility study into the merger of the two railway operations

February 2004 MTR Corp and KCRC begin talks on merger

April 2006 MTR Corp and KCRC sign memorandum with the government over a HK$12 billion merger package. MTR Corp promises to freeze fares for two years

April 2007 Legislative Council starts debating the merger ordinance

May MTR Corp promises to extend fare-freezing period to June 2009

July Legco passes merger proposal

August MTR Corp announces list of board of directors. Only two of the five KCRC's directors are selected, but in a position lower than the one they currently hold

October 82.29 per cent of minority shareholders endorse the merger

November The new company is expected to start operation

Fares after the merger

Passengers travelling medium-distance routes with fares ranging from HK$8.50 to HK$11.90 will receive discount of 5%

Passengers travelling long-distance routes with fares of more than HK$12 a trip will receive discount of at least 10%

For each trip, all Octopus card users will receive discount of 20 cents

Rail officials have agreed to scrap a second boarding charge incurred by passengers switching from one rail system to another which ranged from HK$ to HK$7

No discount will be offered to cross-border communters, Light Rail passengers and those whose trips cost less than HK$8.50