A section of the Light Rail Transit network should be shunted underground to solve congestion in Yuen Long, a lawmaker suggested yesterday.
New Territories West legislator Ben Chan Han-pan, from the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, estimated such a project would cost at least HK$1 billion.
Chan's proposal came after transport minister Anthony Cheung Bing-leung told reporters that the government would table its long-term railway master plan in the first half this year.
The LRT links Tuen Mun, Tin Shui Wai and Yuen Long, and Chan's proposal involves a 1.2 kilometre section of Yuen Long Main Road between Yuen Long Park and the Yuen Long MTR station.
The lawmaker said he would file his proposal to Cheung this week, and hoped that officials would consider it in discussions of the master plan.
Chan said flyovers had been suggested to get the LRT off the streets but his proposal "is to return the road to being Yuen Long's main road". He added: "As the LRT now runs on the ground, it occupies two lanes in the middle of the thoroughfare and creates congestion as residents need to walk to the crowded platforms.
"By moving it below ground and building underground malls, the main road would be able to carry more traffic while the pavement could also be widened."
He said flyovers would not solve the problem as they would not free up as much road space while the elevated trains could worsen noise pollution for nearby buildings.
As a long-term proposal, the LRT could also be extended to Kam Sheung Road MTR station, to cater for population growth in the area, he added. Labour Party lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan, also representing New Territories West, said that he was in agreement with Chan's proposal.
"We believe the entire LRT network should be moved underground," Lee said.
But Yuen Long district councillor Ken Chow Wing-kan worried that Chan's project would be too costly.
"When we already have a railway on the ground, it's unreasonable to demolish it," Chow said.
"The solution should be building a monorail around the town to accommodate housing development, which would also relieve some of the burden on Yuen Long Main Road."