Sha Tin-Central link 'will pay city HK$88b'

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 March, 2012, 12:00am


A planned 17-kilometre railway link between Sha Tin and Central may contribute as much as HK$88 billion to public coffers in return for granting the MTR Corporation the exclusive right to manage it for 50 years, transport officials say.

The estimated total revenue was on top of HK$4.4 billion in direct economic gains the railway could bring the city in 2021, a year after operations started, the Transport and Housing Bureau said, in an apparent attempt to justify the costly and long-delayed project.

The bureau gave the estimates in draft documents prepared for discussion in the Legislative Council next month.

The heavily criticised route received HK$7.7 billion funding to undertake preparatory works at a lawmakers' vote in February of last year, despite the hefty budget - made worse through the years because of a delay in the project.

The Sha Tin-Central link was first proposed 12 years ago, with 2008 set as the earliest possible completion date. The government delayed the project in 2003, and in 2007 Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen decided on 2010 as the likely year of commencement.

Because of the delay, the construction bill as projected last year soared by almost one-third, to HK$79.8 billion, over the previous estimate in 2009. The rise was attributed to inflation.

In 2008, the Executive Council agreed on using a 'concession approach': the government would pay the construction costs and entrust the MTR Corp with the planning and design aspects.

The firm would then receive a service concession - to operate the railway line for 50 years - while giving the government a service-concession payment annually.

Those payments would total HK$88 billion, or about HK$1.76 billion every year, the bureau estimated.

In its first year of operation, the railway was expected to ferry about 1.1 million passengers a day - saving a total of 75 million hours of travelling time every year, the bureau said. That would translate into economic gains of HK$4.4 billion in 2021.

Meanwhile, the MTR Corp announced that all 20 interchange train stations would have toilets by 2020.

The first stations to be thus equipped, by 2015, were Mong Kok, Prince Edward and Admiralty, where major reconstruction work was to be carried out, operations engineer David Leung Chuen-choi said.

Ten of the interchange stations now have toilets.

Prince Edward was picked as a priority because of a lack of public conveniences within 200 metres.

Yau Tsim Mong district councillor Benny Yeung Tsz-hei said: 'Such basic amenities are long overdue. Railway networks elsewhere all have them. It's basic. Even the speed at which they hope to add the new toilets now is very slow.'

Leung said 13 external lifts would be in place by 2015, and that 200 seats would be installed inside long passageways, such as the one between Central and Hong Kong stations.