Anxiety is gripping developers and apartment owners in Tseung Kwan O who are pinning their hopes on the Mass Transit Railway's extension to support a housing market and population boom. Hopes of the extension being completed by 2001 could be diminished following the Government's failure to give a definite completion date in its progress report on the territory's railway network, released this month. In the report, Secretary for Transport Gordon Siu Kwing-chue said the Mass Transit Railway Corp had submitted a technical proposal for the extension to the Government and the financial proposal was awaited. Although Mr Siu hopes the extension can be completed on schedule by 2001, analysts and developers have doubts. They said the progress of the development was already behind schedule and were wary of a further delay they believed could hit the property market and create traffic problems in the district. The chairman of the Transport Advisory Committee, Dr Raymond Ho Chung-tai, said the railway system was important to the development of Tseung Kwan O. 'Any delay in the construction will hurt the development progress of the new town,' Dr Ho said. The nine-kilometre proposed line has been planned by the Government since the 1980s. It will be the new town's key public transport network linking other districts and is aimed at reducing growing congestion in eastern Kowloon. The MTR extension, involving an estimated cost of $20 billion, would run from Lam Tin to Po Lam and include stations at Yau Tong, Tin Keng Leng (Rennie's Mill), Tseung Kwan O and Hang Hau and Po Lam. The MTRC was initially scheduled to appoint consultants to carry out the drawing design of the extension next month, a developer said. Under the plan the drawing study was expected to take nine months and construction work could start in early 1998 and be completed in 2001, the developer said. It was understood the MTRC would not appoint the consultants without first seeking Government approval. The Government is expected to make a decision on the development progress by the end of this year or early next. Developers and apartment owners were worried by rumours that the project would not be discussed by the Joint Liaison Group and that construction work would not start until it got the green light from the Special Administrative Region. That could cause a further delay, a developer said, adding uncertainty surrounding the completion date could also hit buying enthusiasm in the district. With the general belief that the MTR will help transform the Tseung Kwan O new town into a fast-growing district, investors and home-buyers have gone on a shopping spree for apartments in the area over the past few years. Henderson Land sold more than 1,000 units of Metro City phase one early this year for between $4,100 and $4,800 per square foot. It is one of four projects being developed by Henderson Land in the new town. The projects, which will be connected with the new MTR stations, will produce a gross development area of about 6.76 million sq ft. Henderson is also engaged in a residential joint venture with Sun Hung Kai Properties and Chinachem Group. The project will be built on a site of about 330,000 sq ft, to be granted by the Government in exchange for the companies' outstanding Letter B land exchange certificates. Sun Hung Kai is developing a 1.8 million sq ft residential project in East Point City in an area on its own. The project is expected to hit the market early next year. Shiu Wing Steel Co has gained a foothold in the area with the proposed development of four million square feet of residential properties on its steel plant site. Nan Fung Development and Sino Group also have projects there. All these would provide more than 10 million sq ft of gross floor area, most of which would be sold before the MTR extension's construction or completion. Analysts and developers generally believed that the development of the MTR extension would go ahead but further delays appeared unavoidable. Dr Ho said any delay in the Tseung Kwan O extension would cause serious traffic congestion in the district. According to the Government's outline development plan for Tseung Kwan O, the new town will comprise three phases of development, with a population of 445,000 expected when completed beyond 2003. The area will comprise districts including Tsui Lam, Po Lam, Hang Hau, Siu Chik Sha, Tai Chik Sha, Pak Shing Kok, Tiu Keng Leng and Tseung Kwan O Town Centre. Large public housing estates have been built and more are under construction. Analysts said a well planned transport network was necessary for the new town's expected population. Michael Clarke, director of property consultants Colliers Jardine's professional services division, said infrastructure was absolutely vital to the development of a new town. Yuen Long, for example, has suffered for lack of a comprehensive public transport network. Buyers' interest would be affected by the degree of access to the district, he said. To limit the possible delay, developers have urged the Government to start preparation work in advance, even though the project has not yet received a final blessing.