Hong Kong turns on fund pipeline in push for bigger basics

Billions more expected to be spent on infrastructure as the city brings major projects on stream in next few years

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 December, 2012, 3:46am

Hong Kong will continue to spend billions of dollars on infrastructure projects beyond the 10 major projects that were pushed through in the wake of the global financial crisis in 2008.

MTR Corporation is looking at three rail projects with an estimated budget totalling HK$28 billion, namely the North Island Line and the Kai Tak Environmentally Friendly Linkage System (EFLS), according to Legislative Council documents.

"MTR is not resting just on the 10 major infrastructure projects but looking forward to the next projects," said Vincent Connor, Hong Kong head of Pinsent Masons, an international law firm.

In addition, the Central-Wan Chai Bypass and Island Eastern Corridor Link, a 4.5-kilometre, three-lane highway with a 3.7-kilometre tunnel along the northern coast of Hong Kong island, is scheduled to open to traffic on 2017 and cost HK$28.1 billion, according to the Highways Department.

Then there is the second stage of the Harbour Area Treatment Scheme, with a total budget of HK$13 billion, according to the project's website.

This is the government's project to improve the quality of water in Victoria Harbour through sewage and waste water treatment, which will be fully commissioned in 2014.

Tenders were expected to begin for the HK$136.2 billion third runway at Chek Lap Kok airport in 2014, Connor added.

Environmental studies are under way for the proposed third runway and, if there are no objections, it should take off in one or two years.

"If Hong Kong International Airport gets the green light to build the third runway, the local construction industry can expect a pipeline of infrastructure projects that will run until the mid-2020s at least," Connor said.

"We have this extraordinary pipeline of infrastructure projects being delivered in Hong Kong. The engineering involved is breathtaking.

"It makes Hong Kong world-leading in terms of engineering. What makes it world-class is the technical complexity.

"These are very significant projects that are not part of the 10 major infrastructure projects," Connor added.

The 10 projects, which are expected to cost about HK$250 billion, were designed to counter the impact of the 2008 global financial crisis on the city.

In 2008, then-chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen announced he would accelerate the projects, most of which are expected to be completed by 2015.

These include the Kai Tak Development, which will cost more than HK$100 billion, and the HK$66.9 billion Express Rail Link, a high-speed railway linking Hong Kong to Shenzhen.

The Northern Link and North Island Line projects are still under review, and a second stage of public consultation will take place next year, a spokeswoman for the Transport Department said.

Likewise, a second stage of public consultation for the HK$12 billion EFLS will take place next year, and if it goes to plan, the EFLS will start operating in 2023, according to the Civil Engineering and Development Department.

The North Island Link is a 3.5-kilometre underground rail line between Fortress Hill and Tamar Station, while the Northern Link will connect the West Rail Kam Sheung Road Station with the Lok Ma Chau station at the Shenzhen border.

EFLS is a rail link connecting Kai Tak with Kowloon Bay, Kwun Tong and Sha Tin to Central Link.