Canton Road's third lane finally open after drainage work dispute

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 March, 2011, 12:00am

A traffic lane blocked for 18 months on a busy part of Canton Road in Tsim Sha Tsui is finally open, ending a period of frustration for drivers, shop operators and residents.

The lane was supposed to be ready when the adjacent 1881 Heritage renovation project - the commercial makeover of the old marine police headquarters - was finished in August 2009.

But Cheung Kong Holdings, which developed 1881 Heritage, and the government became involved in a dispute over water-drainage work under the road.

The work was delayed, leaving one lane blocked off for months by Cheung Kong barriers, while traffic jammed into the remaining two.

The hold-up was resolved only after a meeting in late December between lands officials and the property giant's executives, people familiar with the situation said. The full length of Canton Road eventually opened to the public shortly before the Lunar New Year.

Under the redevelopment contract for 1881 Heritage, Cheung Kong subsidiary Flying Snow was to lay, form, surface and drain the road and then return it to the government, the Lands Department said.

But the government apparently was not happy with the results when Flying Snow first completed the job, and asked that more work be done, a person from the Cheung Kong side of the negotiations said.

The source said the water work was not part of the contract's requirements, and that when the company later gave in and carried out the work, it took six months for officials to check it met their standards, leading to further delay.

Cheung Kong took possession of the historic site in 2003, paying HK$352.8 million for a 50-year land grant to turn the 11,700 square metre location into a commercial complex with a heritage hotel, high-end shops, restaurants and bars.

Mary Muvlihill, a long-time resident of Tsim Sha Tsui, was so angered by the delays that she complained to the police. 'It is appalling that our government allowed a developer to occupy a public street, causing severe congestion and pollution,' she said. 'Who is in charge here?'