3 lanes to open in fire-hit tunnel

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 March, 2012, 12:00am


Three out of four lanes in the Lion Rock Tunnel will reopen today, according to the Transport Department, but the slow lane damaged by Thursday's fire will remain closed until repairs are completed.

Highways Department chief engineer Yung Kin-yee said yesterday that all repairs should be finished by March 22, but did not say whether the fourth lane would be operational.

Starting today, during the morning rush hours of 6am to 11am, two lanes will be Kowloon-bound, and one Sha Tin-bound. From 11am to midnight, two of the three opened lanes will be Sha Tin-bound and one Kowloon-bound.

Kowloon-bound drivers are reminded to choose their lanes at the toll plaza, as the lane on the right will only lead to Kowloon Tong while that on the left will lead to other destinations including Wong Tai Sin. Drivers should follow road signs and instructions of tunnel staff, said chief transport officer Michael Ng Shi-hung.

Maximum driving speed in the 1.4-kilometre-long tunnel will be reduced from 70km/h to 50km/h at all times. These rules will be implemented until further announcements, expected at the end of next week.

The fire broke out in a drainage tube below the carriageway at about 3.30am on Thursday and raged for nine hours. Investigators are looking into whether a cigarette or other factors such as a short-circuit caused the fire.

No injuries were reported but it led to the closure of the tunnel's Kowloon-bound roadway for four days.

A Fire Services Department spokesman said the cause of the fire was still being investigated.

The Water Supplies Department made a public apology for the road closure and traffic congestion, as its workers were carrying out rehabilitation work on the water mains inside the drainage tube when the fire broke out. Water supplies are not affected.

Traffic jams are expected on the affected tunnel, and Ng advised drivers to take alternative routes on Castle Peak Road, Tate's Cairn Tunnel or Shing Mun Tunnels.

Yung, the chief engineer, said repairing parts of the tunnel would be difficult as the underground drainage tube was very narrow, with only two small manholes at the two ends of the 60-metre-long damaged pipe. Two larger openings were made in between to facilitate the repairs.