The price tag of a road project linked to the controversial Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge has soared by 55 per cent to over HK$25 billion in the space of about five months, according to new estimates by the Transport and Housing Bureau.
In papers distributed to legislators, who will discuss them at a panel meeting next Wednesday, the bureau blamed the price rise partly on a judicial review that held up the project by about 18 months, as construction costs rose. The review was on the government's approval of the road project's environmental impact assessment reports.
To make up for the delay, the bureau now says it needs an additional HK$8.86 billion on top of last November's estimate of HK$16.19 billion for the 12-kilometre Hong Kong Link Road. That would push the total cost of the project to HK$25.05 billion.
The public works subcommittee of the Legislative Council's finance committee is expected to discuss the request at its meeting on May 7.
The dual-carriageway, three-lane road will connect the bridge at Hong Kong's maritime boundary, west of Lantau, to border-crossing facilities on an artificial island east of Chek Lap Kok airport.
According to the government's original plan, work should have started on the road by the end of last year. But because of the judicial review, the government could not start inviting bidders until October. Work is now expected to start by June or July.
The construction timetable had to be 'compressed through increased labour resources, arrangement of overtime work and increased plant resources', the Transport and Housing Bureau said.
However, the Civic Party, which had backed the judicial review in 2010, last night rejected the government's claims that the project was delayed by the court case.
The party cited government documents circulated among legislators in February last year, saying 'nothing was mentioned in the document that any part of the project was facing delay because of the court case'.
'The government has tried to mislead the public, and evade responsibility, instead of reviewing and improving its planning and execution procedures in a serious manner,' the party said in a statement.
The bridge project was officially launched in 2003 when the Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macau governments formed a working group to start the preparatory work. Construction within Chinese waters started in 2009 and was expected to be completed in 2016 - the same target that the Hong Kong government set.