Hong Kong MTR

We'll do better next time, transport minister Anthony Cheung says

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 June, 2014, 4:15am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 June, 2014, 4:15am

Future railway projects will be planned in a better way, the transport minister has promised after it emerged that delays were threatening all five MTR lines under construction.

Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said two delays announced on Thursday reflected engineering difficulties in the projects and a shortage of labour.

"We will learn from this experience and review planning issues in the construction of future railways," he said yesterday.

But Cheung warned that future challenges could be tougher because of other infrastructure projects the city might carry out.

Proposed railways include a line parallel to the Island Line, a link between the Hong Kong and Shenzhen airports, and one serving planned new towns in the northeastern New Territories.

The public was consulted on these proposals in the past two years and the government is due to reveal its decision this year.

On Thursday, the MTR Corporation admitted there would be a delay of six months, to 2016, in opening the Kwun Tong line extension - linking Yau Ma Tei, Ho Man Tin and Whampoa - and the South Island line, to run between Admiralty and South Horizons.

The West Island line, due to open by the end of the year, and the first phase of the Sha Tin-Central link, supposed to be finished by 2018, might not meet their deadlines, the MTR said.

The news came two months after the company admitted a two-year delay in the opening of a high-speed link to Guangzhou. MTR could have been too optimistic when it set 2015 as the year the South Island line would be ready, the project's construction manager Ken Wong Kin-wai said. The project was short of 1,000 workers, he said.

The labour shortage was also cited by the Kwun Tong line extension's project manager James Chow So-hung as a major reason for its delay.

Protesters rallied outside the MTR headquarters, calling on the company to explain more clearly the reasons for the delays.