PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 October, 2009, 12:00am

Express link is about investing in the future

The cross-border express rail link has come under fire of late in reports and letters in the South China Morning Post. It has been criticised for its inflated costs, unrealistic passenger targets and the lavish design of the underground terminal. It has also been compared with its much-berated Taiwanese counterpart.

The project has been described as a white elephant. Well, let's look at another white elephant - the Western Harbour Tunnel. It has no hope of breaking even and its toll deters most drivers. But if you live anywhere from Wah Fu Estate to Sheung Wan and you want to get to Kowloon, you will be glad that your buses do not have to line up at Hung Hom.

Surely it is a good thing to offer greater choice to people who want to get from Hong Kong to Shenzhen and Guangzhou. Unless its critics think it is OK to be packed like sardines on a train from Friday to Sunday.

Given the extortionate prices being paid for flats in Hong Kong, it would be an attractive proposition to commute daily from the mainland once the distance shortens to 20 minutes. In terms of being economical and practical, this project is what I would describe as 'investing in the future'.

Hongkongers do not want to make an investment, but still want to derive maximum benefit. So, axe the underground terminus and put on a soundproof roof.

I am not looking for a marvel of engineering that looks like a palace.

I am just a working class man who wants to get quickly from A to B.

David Fung, Aberdeen

Taxi idea came from residents

I refer to the report ('Taxi proposal may allow Discovery Bay hotel project to resume', October 1), which requires clarification.

Following the government's decision to permit urban taxis to operate in Park Island, Ma Wan, Discovery Bay residents have asked if a taxi service can also be arranged to provide added convenience to the community.

The proposal to introduce a strictly controlled taxi service has been formulated in response to residents' inquiries and suggestions.

This was clearly stated in our information leaflet and exhibition materials, but not mentioned in your report.

You linked the proposal to the hotel project, the viability of which is being reassessed in the light of current market conditions.

In the information leaflet it was also stated that 'subject to approval of the proposal, it is expected that urban taxis and Lantau taxis will be allowed to enter DB authorised areas'.

You said that 'the vehicles would be allowed to pass the public transport interchange and stop at the hotel'.

In fact, under the proposal, as was stated in the information leaflet, 'taxis can pick up and drop off passengers anywhere in Yi Pak, within the authorised areas, after passing through the underpass (unless otherwise indicated by road signs)'.

You also said that 'while admitting the new taxi stand may not serve most residents, the developer's spokesman said it would be useful for people in northern areas, such as residents of Siena and those near Yi Pak Bay'. This is not what the spokesman said.

Residents might have different views on the proposed taxi service, and people living close to the proposed taxi stand might particularly welcome the service.

However, it must be stressed that it will serve all residents, especially in the circumstances of an emergency and late-night travel.

We look forward to receiving Discovery Bay residents' responses to the proposal.

Ernest Lau, senior manager, corporate affairs, HKR International Limited

College list is not representative

I refer to the report ('HKU rated 24th best in world', October 8).

It is linguistic and cultural arrogance of the highest order for The Times of London to call this list the 'World's Top 200 Universities', given that it is largely based on published research in the English language.

The fact that universities in non-English-speaking countries such as China, Japan, France, Spain and Germany among others, even feature on it is remarkable because most research in those countries would be published in their respective native languages.

Given the criteria on which it is judged, the top 10 on this list [Times Higher Education QS World University Rankings 2009] is by no means representative of quality in top universities around the world.

On the contrary, it is a testament to the blinkered short-sightedness of certain parts of the English-speaking world.

John Hone, Mid-Levels

Minimum wage law at risk

There is an ongoing debate about the inclusion of maids (including foreign domestic helpers) in the minimum wage law. It seems there is a well-organised lobby that wants to scuttle this legislation.

Unlike other low-paid workers in Hong Kong, foreign helpers do not have the right of permanent residency and cannot sponsor their family members to live here as dependants.

Also, by law they must live with their employers and so it is impossible to calculate their hours of work. The other low-paid workers in Hong Kong, on the other hand, must pay for their accommodation and all other family expenses from the minimum wage that they will receive.

Hence, to bring fairness to the system, the employment rules and regulations regarding foreign helpers have to be changed to bring their situation up to a par with the other workers.

Also, legally it is not viable to discriminate against a particular set of workers regarding the minimum wage.

It seems the minimum wage law will get tangled up in court cases, much to the delight of company bosses.

Dyutimoy Chakraborty, Lantau

Government will stand firm

Stephen Vines can rest assured that his scaremongering ('What's stable about being dysfunctional?' October 2) will not make the slightest difference to the administration's stand, certainly not with the instability that he suggested.

Nobody would dare to generate this instability, even if he could rally enough support for it in the first place. A government would not wish to be seen to be submitting to threats.

The pan-democrats have threatened to withhold support for the government's 2012 political reform proposal if a road map for 2017 and 2020 is not produced. It is precisely because of that threat that the road map has not been produced, even though the government might well have it at the ready.

If the political skill required for good governance can only be 'nurtured in a system where leaders face elections', as Vines put it, then the pre-1997 administration would have been devoid of such skill.

Peter Lok, Chai Wan

Reasons behind illegal dumping

It is sad to see that illegal dumping remains rampant in the New Territories.

From a geographical perspective, this has very much to do with urban encroachment on our countryside areas. From an economic perspective it has everything to do with potential sales of village houses to 'suburbanites' who prefer the lower per-square-foot cost and possibility to drive cars, than live in small urban flats.

Indeed, there is much to say about a HK$1 million village flat with 700 sq ft than a HK$2 million urban flat with less than 600 sq ft. No wonder land-rich indigenous villagers and companies would rather lay waste to their land, given the economic incentives available.

As an aspect of counter-urbanisation, there may be no turning back regarding this.

The government should, however, be in a position to control the process rather than leave it rampant, causing loss to the few precious and rare habitats Hong Kong still has.

Mark Chan, Tuen Mun

Leave nature to its own devices

Perhaps the relevant government departments that desire to concrete over Hong Kong by walling up our beaches, cementing over our country trails or railing in our city walks, should look at the recent collapse of an important rock formation on Australia's south coast.

Surely if these magnificent obelisks, the Three Sisters, were under Hong Kong jurisdiction they would have long ago been cemented in and the sea reclaimed.

However, in a refreshing, and perhaps poignant reminder in these ecological friendly times, Australia's tourism minister ruled out any rescue efforts (of what were originally thought to be the Twelve Apostles formation), saying nature should be left to take its course - apt words indeed.

Mark Peaker, The Peak

Useful role

Textbooks should still be used in liberal studies classes.

They provide an important guide to students and can be used as a source of reference.

A book will offer students different types of model answers. This will help them deal with their thought processes, such as what criteria to use when answering a question.

Although liberal studies does require students to look at current events and understand what is happening in the news, they still need to have a historical perspective.

A textbook can provide that kind of historical background.

Lai Tsz-yeung, Sha Tin