Bridge cost could rise by HK$6.5b
A Court of Appeal ruling yesterday cleared the way for the government to press ahead with work on the long-delayed HK$83 billion Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge.
The massive project was sidelined in April when a judge upheld an application for a judicial review claiming the government's 2009 environmental impact assessment of the project had failed to meet its own standards. In yesterday's ruling, Mr Justice Robert Tang Ching, Mr Justice Michael Hartmann and Madam Justice Carlye Chu Fun-ling handed down a unanimous decision to allow the appeal filed by the Director of Environmental Protection.
Responding to the ruling, Transport Secretary Eva Cheng said the one-year delay may increase the construction cost of the cross-border project by HK$6.5 billion. She called on the legal challenger not to take the case to the Court of Final Appeal, because of the potential tremendous impacts involved. The court's ruling was 'very clear', she said.
Chu Yee-wah, 66, the Tung Chung resident who filed the judicial review last year, said she would not continue, adding that she regretted getting involved it in the first place.
Breaking her silence on the case, she told Cable TV last night she had been asked by someone to launch the review, but declined to identify the person.
However, Alan Wong Hok-ming, a solicitor for Chu, said they would study the ruling first before deciding whether to take the case to the top court. The judges ruled against the applicant's argument that the environmental impact statement was flawed by its omission of a 'standalone assessment' on projected conditions - what would happen if the bridge was not built.
Tang said that a proponent was in any case obliged to minimise the pollution from a construction project.
Yesterday's ruling means work on the Hong Kong section of the bridge - including a 130-hectare border crossing on reclaimed land, and a 12-kilometre-long road link to the main bridge spanning the Pearl River - can resume immediately. Cheng said: 'We will now proceed full steam ahead with the statutory procedures and funding application. Our aim is to commence the project works before the end of this year.' She said the one-year delay might add HK$6.5 billion in labour and other costs if the work was to be completed on schedule by 2016.
Cheng said the government would also speed up the Sha Tin-Central Link. The rail project's impact assessment reports were withdrawn after the previous ruling.
Five green groups and the Civic Party responded to yesterday's ruling by saying the issue would not go away. They urged the government to improve the environmental impact assessment system by amending the law to give it more teeth to protect health and the environment.
The proposed overall length, in kilometres, of the bridge and tunnels
- The longest bridge section will be 22.8km