55pc blowout fear on cost of new rail line

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 September, 2010, 12:00am

The HK$7 billion budget for building the South Island Line (East) may blow out by up to 55 per cent due to big rises in the price of construction materials, the MTR Corporation says.

This means the cost of the four-year railway project, due to be launched next year, could be as high as HK$10.8 billion.

The design manager for the South Island Line, Peter Leung Man-fat, said the original estimate was based on the government's tender price index in 2006. But he said the building cost had yet to be finalised as the tender process was continuing.

The MTR Corp said it had to wait for completion of the tender process before it could decide on how the cost would be split between the MTR and the government.

The big rise in price has shocked lawmakers, who warned that they will press the company to explain it.

Wong Sing-chi, a member of Legco's transport panel, said he would write to panel chairman Cheung Hok-ming asking for the MTR to explain the situation.

'It is more about the credibility of the MTR, which presented the building cost as HK$7 billion to gain our support to build the project in the very beginning. But all of a sudden, it tells us the actual price is 55 per cent more, which is unacceptable,' Wong said. Panel member Albert Chan Wai-yip said the company owed the public an explanation and he would follow up the issue.

Another big MTR project, the West Island Line, faces the same problem. Its projected cost has risen from the budgeted HK$8.9 billion to HK$15.4 billion, also due to the rising cost of materials and design changes made for environmental reasons.

The seven-kilometre South Island Line (East) section will run between Admiralty and South Horizons, via new stations at Ocean Park, Wong Chuk Hang and Lei Tung. It is expected to be completed in 2015.

The MTR's Leung said the company would proceed with its plans for public facilities along the South Island Line despite the price rise.

Under the plan, the MTR will build a 2,000 square metre pet park near Ap Lei Chau Bridge, a new promenade and a footbridge to connect the two with Wong Chuk Hang station, Leung said.

The idea of building a pet park in Wong Chuk Hang emerged after discussions and consultations with the district council and residents, he said. Management of the park, which would be built on government land, would be handed over to the Leisure and Cultural Services Department.

After receiving residents' views, the MTR has decided to alter the design of the 2km viaduct in the Wong Chuk Hang area. It will be smaller and will have slimmer pillars that integrate the overhead line support system and parapet with a noise barrier.