Kai Tak monorail won't stretch into nearby districts
Development officials have ruled out extending a proposed monorail system from Kai Tak to nearby districts, since that would cost an extra HK$4.6 billion but boost ridership by only about 10 per cent.
The monorail was proposed in October as a key part of the government's redevelopment of Kowloon East from a run-down district into a second central business district.
Local politicians have called for the monorail extensions to go ahead into the districts of Kowloon City, San Po Kong and To Kwa Wan. But officials from the Civil Engineering and Development Department and Development Bureau said environmental impacts such as noise and blocked daylight would be inappropriate in the narrow streets of those largely residential areas. The monorail could come as close as three metres to buildings, intruding on residents' privacy.
The officials also concluded that building the monorail system - at an estimated HK$12 billion in 2010 prices - would yield a return of only 1 per cent, compared to around 4 per cent for a conventional railway. That rate was calculated by subtracting 50 years of operating and maintenance costs from its economic benefits, such as shorter commuting times. Officials have not released a detailed economic benefit analysis of the proposed nine kilometre monorail, which would have 12 stations, including stops at the old run way, Kowloon Bay and Kwun Tong.
Nor have they provided a direct comparison between the costs and benefits of the rail system and a possible alternative, such as an eco-efficient bus network. The monorail has been positioned as an essential element and landmark for the revived Kai Tak district. Officials said it would create a safe and reliable commuting service and good integration with existing MTR rail networks.
A bus system would be less suitable, they said, because it would occupy more road space and add pressure to already congested road networks. 'Without the monorail system, the catalytic effect of transforming the districts will be greatly compromised,' said a senior development official.
The South China Morning Post has reported that a green bus network would cost far less than a monorail - up to HK$400 million - and the operator could still make a profit.
Transport experts have said the monorail can break even only if the government bears the capital and asset replacement costs. It is expected to carry up to 200,000 passengers a day by 2031.
Expected annual operating cost, in HK dollars, after the monorail's completion in 2023 - HK$141 million more than fare revenue