The long-awaited South Island Line (East) rail link is estimated to cost as much as HK$12.6 billion, an 80 per cent jump from the estimate when it was proposed in 2007.
The updated figure was announced as the Executive Council yesterday endorsed the seven-kilometre project, a pledge in Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's policy address in 2007, when he said it would cost about HK$7 billion.
A government spokesman said the estimated construction cost of the line now ranged from HK$12.3 billion to HK$12.6 billion because building costs had risen by about 55 per cent from 2006 to last year due to a surge in material prices.
Amendments to the design in response to public opinion, and technical requirements also accounted for the increase, he said.
But he said the MTR was still working on the detail of the project's design, and that final technical fine-tuning could still have a minor impact on the cost. The final estimate is expected to be available in the first quarter of next year.
The line will run between Admiralty and South Horizons, via new stations at Ocean Park, Wong Chuk Hang and Lei Tung. Work is due to start next year and end in 2015.
The Executive Council also endorsed the Kwun Tong Line extension project, which will extend the line from Yau Ma Tei station to Whampoa through an intermediate station at Ho Man Tin. It is estimated to be completed in 2015.
The spokesman said the cost of the extension would range from HK$5.3 billion to HK$5.6 billion. This is an increase of about 30 per cent from the MTR's initial assessment of HK$4.2 billion in 2007, when it was proposed. This was also said to be due to the surge in construction material prices and refinements and amendments to the project.
Hung Wing-tat, a transport researcher at Polytechnic University, said the construction cost of the South Island Line would continue to grow because of the rising value of the yuan and because most of the construction materials the project needed were mainland-made. He said it was hard to forecast what the bill would be in 2015.
'I think the government's latest estimated cost was made after considering various additional items such as noise-reduction facilities resulting from a strong outcry from residents on Ap Lei Chau. The government did not expect this at the beginning and they had to revise the project from head to toe after public opposition,' Hung said.