Not underestimating the difficulties in developing underground spaces in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 March, 2017, 4:44pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 March, 2017, 10:02pm

Developing underground is not a fresh idea in our city. There has been a long discussion about how we could apply this concept wisely to address the problems encountered in built-up areas. It demands efforts to plan holistically and generate solutions that suit the needs of individual areas and the interests of society.

The government’s pilot study on underground space development for four areas, namely, Tsim Sha Tsui West, Causeway Bay, Happy Valley and Admiralty/Wan Chai, is now going through this process. Our vision is to create a well-connected network of multifunction underground space that can deal with connectivity and space issues in one go.

There are numerous examples across the globe showing successful use of interconnected underground space to alleviate at-grade congestion.

The sub-surface usage can go beyond simply retail and can extend to a broad range of uses, including community and recreational facilities. We can have a new dimension of thoughts in exploring underground space solutions so as to bring significant public gains to our city.

We will not underestimate the difficulties in developing underground space in the urban areas as there are many constraints.

The presence of building foundations, underground utilities and MTR tunnels limits the choice of location, not to mention others such as narrow streets, a busy traffic environment and land ownership issues.

With all these taken into consideration, sizeable parks in the proximity of MTR stations can be an option that offers opportunity spaces with less physical constraints.

The first stage public engagement completed early this month has stimulated discussions among the public about possible uses of underground space in these areas and the worthiness of developing under-park space, given that there are concerns about various short- and long-term impacts. We fully acknowledge all the opinions expressed.

While evaluating the technical feasibility, we will meticulously assess the impacts and formulate solutions to address the concerns. More details will be presented at the next stage of public engagement for comment.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. We are indeed experiencing what other cities such as Montreal and Tokyo struggled with in the past. Let’s think laterally and down to “earth”.

Pun Wai-keung, head of the Geotechnical Engineering Office