WORK starts this week on construction of the Hunghom by-pass and Princess Margaret Road link, a $1.44 billion contract awarded to a joint venture between Maeda Corp of Japan and domestic contractor Chun Wo. The venture signed the contract with the Highways Department after beating strong competition from 14 other companies. The scheme was delayed for several months while engineering firm Maunsell Consultants Asia changed the design of elevated slip roads after the Executive Council upheld objections from nearby hotels. The hotels had complained that the elevated approaches would have blocked waterfront views. The changes added several hundreds of thousands of dollars to the project's cost, which was originally estimated at $1 billion. Completion, initially due in 1997, has also been delayed and is not expected until 1999. The work entails building the elevated 1.3-kilometre Hunghom by-pass from Salisbury Road to Hunghom Road and the elevated 1.2-kilometre Princess Margaret Road link, from the bypass to Chatham Road South. The contract also includes about 3.7 kilometres of ground-level highway on the Hunghom reclamation.