After two decades of setbacks, relief at last for residents in oldest district

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2007, 12:00am

Insufficient population, high costs and a reclamation dispute had once been the major stumbling blocks for a rail extension into the island's oldest district.

The calls for the extension date back to 1985, when the Hong Kong Island Line opened.

Residents were denied access to rail services because of planning guidelines that said a rail would be built only when the area population reached 500,000. Although the threshold was lowered to 300,000, the district still failed to get what it wanted, having a population of about 270,000.

At one point, the government hoped a massive reclamation project on Green Island would justify extending the rail service. But the project was scrapped because of a property market slump and opposition to harbour reclamation.

Hope resurfaced in 2000 when the second railway development study listed the West Island Line together with the South Island Line in a blueprint for rail extension. But subsequent plans by the MTR Corp had to be modified in view of costs and local district development plans.

The original proposal of developing a rail loop linking Western and Southern districts was scrapped, and the two projects were delinked.

In 2005 the government finally approved the project, but the MTR Corp found it difficult to finance it without government funding or being given property development rights in Ka Wai Man Road. The government eventually agreed to inject HK$6 billion instead of offering the land to the rail operator.