Combine rail projects to reduce costs and environmental impact

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 August, 2009, 12:00am

A flawed environmental impact assessment ('Rail delay urged over 'ridiculous' green report', August 3) opens up an opportunity for the entire express rail service [to the mainland] to be re-evaluated and done as a single holistic project that would benefit Hong Kong commuters.

The new rail line was never intended to replace the existing through-train service, as it will terminate in Panyu, south of Guangzhou. It will serve a new group of long-distance rail travellers, as well as those travelling to closer cities like Zhongshan, Jiangmen, Shunde and Foshan .

There will continue to be an express train service to Guangzhou East Station serving the central business district and destinations on the northern side of Guangzhou. The MTR Corporation plans to re-route the existing through train into the Kowloon West station. This 'bifurcation', as it has been named, will start near Lo Wu and join the new and existing through train lines near Lok Ma Chau.

Why not build the bifurcation now and make it part of the same environmental assessment?

The second issue is the new rail yard location in the New Territories, taking more land from villagers. This could be built above the existing West Rail depot adjacent to Kam Sheung Road Station. This station could become a transfer hub between express and local train services. At present, many passengers cross at Lo Wu and transfer to high-speed CRH trains to Guangzhou East. These would be served by this New Territories hub.

The extra five minutes or so of journey time will not inconvenience passengers who boarded at Kowloon, providing better intercity connections in the New Territories while improving development prospects for the western New Territories.

The MTR has three rail lines planned for this area: the Lo Wu bifurcation, the express line, and a northern link connecting Lo Wu with Kam Sheung Road station. These projects will run parallel to each other and must be treated as a single project, with a single right of way as much as possible, instead of carving up three separate areas of Hong Kong. The result would minimise the environmental impact, and reduce the project's cost.

Ralph Bishop, Pok Fu Lam