HK must mesh with mainland rail network or else, says business chief

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 January, 2008, 12:00am
 

Hong Kong lacks 'sensitivity' in railway development and could be marginalised if it fails to catch up with the mainland's fast-growing transport networks, the head of the Greater Pearl River Delta Business Council and Airport Authority chairman Victor Fung Kwok-king says.

In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Dr Fung reiterated that the proposed cross-delta bridge must have a railway to further speed up passenger flows and logistics in the region.

He called for early completion of the proposed bridge connecting Hong Kong with Zhuhai and Macau.

'We are expecting a dramatic increase in cross-border traffic. If we build the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, a rail link is a must,' Dr Fung said.

'The rail system in the country is developing at an amazing speed and we should think about what its impact on our economic development will be. The country is pushing passenger flows between major cities on high-speed trains while using the remaining capacity for cargo. The rail system is now massive.

'In Hong Kong, we always talk about road links, air links and sea links. But we don't have adequate sensitivity in rail links. I never believed Hong Kong would be marginalised, but we could be if we are not careful in rail-link development.'

Dr Fung, chairman of the Li and Fung Group, has headed the Greater Pearl River Delta Business Council since 2004. It advises the chief executive on co-operation between Hong Kong and Guangdong.

The cross-delta bridge project has been dragging on for years. The idea of building a railway with the bridge has been suggested but the government has never committed itself to including it.

After the 10th working meeting of the Hong Kong/Guangdong Co-operation Joint Conference in Guangzhou on Tuesday, the Hong Kong government said 20 studies had been completed under the feasibility study of the bridge project.

Both sides agreed to strive for early implementation of the project.

Dr Fung said another key project that could bring Hong Kong closer to the Pearl River Delta was the Regional Express Line connecting the city with Guangzhou. The link, expected to be completed by 2014, will shorten the journey between the two cities from two hours to 48 minutes.

Another proposed railway linking Hong Kong and Shenzhen airports would shuttle commuters between the two aviation centres in 18 minutes.

'You could check in at one point and get on a flight in another,' Dr Fung said.

'We serve different markets. Hong Kong cannot provide daily flights to a second-tier city like Zhengzhou ; we don't have such a market. But the market for domestic flights in Shenzhen is very big. Shenzhen does not have many international flights, but we do. We can complement each other, totally.'

Chief Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen said last month that a rail link would be the best way to boost ties between the two cities' aviation sectors. Two joint taskforces will be set up soon - one to study inter-airport co-operation and the other to look at development of the Lok Ma Chau Loop.

Reviewing Pearl River Delta development since the handover, Dr Fung said he was glad to see an increasing awareness of a regional perspective among Hongkongers.

'Hong Kong has to view itself as being at the heart of a population of 40 million. If we don't have a vision of an economy of this size, we cannot ... compete globally.

'Ten years after the handover, people's mindset about the Pearl River Delta has changed.

'When I first talked about the greater delta five or six years ago, some people did not know what I was talking about. But now no one questions this direction.'

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