Wan Chai could get three more stations as part of MTR shake-up
District could get three new stations and trains might no longer run the length of Island Line
Ada Lee and Jennifer Ngo
Three stations would be built in or close to Wan Chai if a proposal to construct a new rail line is adopted to ease congestion.
Under one of two options, trains would cease running the full length of the MTR's Island Line. Passengers boarding in the eastern part of Hong Kong Island would have to change trains to reach Wan Chai and Central.
The plan is one of seven proposals put forward in the second stage of a public consultation about long-term railway development. The consultation will last three months.
It puts forward two options for creating a North Island line. Under one of these options, stations on the existing Island Line would be divided between the Tseung Kwan O Line, on which trains would run between Tseung Kwan O and Kennedy Town, and the Tung Chung Line, on which trains would run from Tung Chung to Chai Wan.
Three new stations - Tamar, Exhibition (for the Convention and Exhibition Centre), and Causeway Bay North - would be on the Tung Ching Line.
Passengers boarding in Eastern District for travel to Fortress Hill and beyond on what is now the Island Line would have to change to a Tung Chung Line train at North Point; if the current service frequency on the latter were maintained, they could face a wait of several minutes for a connecting train.
The other proposal for a North Island line would see Tseung Kwan O Line trains running to and from Tamar along the new route, with an interchange at Tamar to the Tung Chung Line. Island Line trains would run between Chai Wan and Kennedy Town. A consultants' report said this option would do less to ease congestion.
As for the western part of the South Island Line, the government hopes to gauge opinion on the merits of splitting its construction into two phases - linking Wong Chuk Hang and Wah Fu Estate first, and then Wah Fu to the University of Hong Kong.
Transport analyst Dr Hung Wing-tat, of Polytechnic University, said the new railways would cut the percentage of commuters taking buses but the actual number of bus users might not drop because of population growth.
Southern district councillors from the Democratic Party said the proposed South Island Line was shorter and had fewer stations than when it was first proposed in 2004. They said building its western section in phases was ridiculous. Construction would take more than 20 years and create long-lasting inconvenience.
Eastern District councillor Patrick Leung Siu-sun was worried more people would take the Island Line to cross the harbour if an extra line was built, making Tai Koo station even more crowded because more people would be using the MTR.
Lawmaker Gary Fan Kwok-wai said the priority should be on building the South Island Line section linking Wah Fu and Wong Chuk Hang, as there were many low-income families in the district who relied on public transport.
Undersecretary for Transport and Housing Yau Shing-mu said that after the second-stage consultation ended, the government would ask its consultant to collate public opinion and make recommendations. The process should be completed this year.