Legco told of rail link reclamation peril

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 May, 2009, 12:00am

Putting a planned rail link under the Central-Wan Chai bypass would only increase the reclamation area needed and prolong the completion time, lawmakers were told yesterday.

Lawmakers asked officials at a development affairs panel meeting to clarify whether the Sha Tin-Central rail link, now being planned and which shares a similar alignment with the bypass, would need additional reclamation.

Their questions follow a warning by Winston Chu Ka-sun, adviser for the Society for Protection of the Harbour, last week that he would not rule out another legal challenge if the government failed to show the bypass and the railway projects were well co-ordinated. He said the two routes should share the same tunnel to avoid further reclamation.

The rail link is in its final design stage and construction is expected to start in 2011 - about 1 1/2 years after the work begins on the bypass. It will involve a cross-harbour tunnel connecting Hung Hom and the Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Highways Department project manager Chow Ying-shun said putting the railway tunnel underneath the bypass would mean deeper dredging in the harbour, prolonging the period of temporary reclamation in the typhoon shelter, where the two routes overlap, by about 33 months. Altering the railway tunnel alignment would also result in a longer journey time.

The overlapping alignment would also push the Wan Chai bypass tunnel further east towards North Point, increasing the permanent reclamation from 3.3 hectares to 10 hectares, he said, without explaining the figures in detail.

Secretary for Transport and Housing Eva Cheng said work would be carried out within the bypass project to help reduce the amount of temporary reclamation required for the railway.

Members of the Hong Kong Construction Industry Employees General Union staged a rally outside Legco yesterday, calling for the government to speed up the by-pass project. They said it would provide job opportunities and help ease unemployment in the industry.

The 4.5km bypass, along the northern shore of Hong Kong Island, consists mainly of a six-lane tunnel and will involve permanent reclamation of 12.7 hectares of the harbour.