Anger as small businesses struggle in shadow of rail link
Owners ask for compensation as MTR blamed for flooding and poor sales
To Kwa Wan shops whose sales have been affected by construction of the Sha Tin-Central rail link are asking for special government subsidies equal to a year's rent to help them ride out their business difficulties.
The shop owners claim monthly turnover has dropped as much as 70 per cent since the start of this year, when workers began digging up Ma Tau Wai Road in order to build the Ma Tau Wai MTR station.
Traffic diversions and tall hoardings put consumers off, they said, affecting as many as 80 shops near the site. So far the government has received five compensation requests.
The heavy rain on Thursday night only added to shop owners' woes. It triggered flooding that was blamed on drains being blocked by the MTR Corporation's construction work.
The owner of Gold Fashion, a seller of cheongsam - a traditional Chinese dress - said it was one of the hardest hit by the flood. "It was like a reservoir," owner Nelson Man Ying-kit, 66, said. "This had never happened before the construction started."
He said sales had gone down 70 per cent since the hoardings went up on the pavements.
"It is like operating inside a tunnel. It is noisy and dusty. Who would like to come here to shop?"
Man and other shopkeepers fear this is just the start of a long ordeal, as the section in neighbouring Hung Hom is not scheduled to be completed before 2018 - plus the project has recently run up against a delay.
Construction on the 10-station, 17-kilometre rail link - which will cost HK$80 billion - started in mid-2012. It is due to connect Tai Wai to Hung Hom by 2018 and to Admiralty by 2020.
Now work is being held up by large-scale discoveries of artefacts and ancient buildings under a site near the planned To Kwa Wan stop. The MTR says it has not yet determined the impact of the archaeological findings on construction progress.
Kowloon City district councillor Yang Wing-kit, who supports the shopkeepers, said: "To help them cope with the difficult times, the government should offer as special subsidies amounts equal to 12 months of their rents."
Under the Railways Ordinance, which allows for temporary occupation of private land for rail and road construction projects, affected shopkeepers can claim compensation from the government.
But the procedure could be costly because shopkeepers had to hire professionals to determine their losses, Yang said.
"Usually, such claims would be rejected because the work is not blocking access to their shops," he said.