Fears are growing that another new railway will be delayed, after the government admitted that work on the South Island Line had fallen behind schedule.
The new line linking Southern District to the MTR network for the first time is due to open next year, but the Highways Department said yesterday that work at Admiralty station had "lagged behind considerably". The MTR Corporation is confident the line will open on time, but the department has asked it to explain its plans to make up the delay.
Lawmakers fear the MTR Corporation will focus resources on avoiding further problems with the high-speed cross-border link to Guangzhou amid anger over a two-year delay to its opening, rather than the long-awaited line from Admiralty to Ap Lei Chau.
"The MTR may put more manpower into the cross-border railway to catch up with the schedule, and as a result, hold back other local projects," said Michael Tien Puk-sun, chairman of the Legislative Council's railways subcommittee.
The problems are focused on Admiralty station, which will become an interchange for four lines - the existing Island and Tsuen Wan routes, the future Sha Tin-Central link and the South Island Line - all beneath one of the most built-up areas of Hong Kong Island.
"The project has experienced different difficulties," the spokesman said. "[We are] now digging beneath the station, tunnel and under land on which many buildings stand."
Lo Kin-hei, a Southern District councillor, said he feared the delay would extend the disruption in the district and urged the MTR to help residents there.
The Democratic Party and the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong expressed concern and called for full disclosure. The MTR and government were criticised for secrecy after revealing last month that the cross-border line would not run until 2017.
The HK$12.4 billion South Island Line (East) - a western line is on the drawing board - involves new stations at Ocean Park, Wong Chuk Hang, Lei Tung and South Horizons.
The new Sha Tin-Central Link may also face delays after an architectural dig turned up rare antiquities near the route. Two other rail projects are also under way. The West Island Line is due to open this year and an extension to the Kwun Tong Line is due to be completed next year.