At least $50 billion needs to be spent on urgent rail developments over the next three years, experts warned. Mr Tsang justified the predicted huge surplus by saying a large sum needed to be set aside while the options for rail development were studied. The Railway Development Strategy, which includes the $49.4 billion West Rail and the Tai Wai to Ma On Shan railway, needed a substantial investment. 'It would be only prudent to earmark a sum of this magnitude to meet the potential funding for these projects over the forecast period,' Mr Tsang said. The strategy also includes the MTR's Tseung Kwan O extension. But the Transport Branch said the West Rail would need most money. Transport experts warned the $50 billion allocation should be carefully allotted to ensure all projects were completed in time to cater for the soaring population. Outgoing Transport Advisory Committee chairman Dr Raymond Ho Chung-tai said the Ma On Shan rail was just as urgent as the West Rail. 'Also, I think the MTRC should be receiving more money to encourage them to further develop their existing network, not just the Tseung Kwan O link,' he said. The corporation said it was capable of funding the East Kowloon extension alone but also had plans for a fourth cross-harbour link. The KCRC said support from government coffers was essential due to the sheer size of the West Rail project. Company spokesman Yeung Chee-kong said its cost estimates varied from those of government consultants and they were working to reconcile the figures. He said government estimates showed $24.4 billion in public money was needed. The company estimated a figure closer to $38.5 billion. Mr Yeung added that the company would raise the rest of the money through its reserves, bank loans and property development. 'But this project is still in a very preliminary stage and we hope to hand our planning schedule to the Executive Council in February next year,' Mr Yeung said. Albert Chan Wai-yip of the Democratic Party said each line was urgent and should be built as soon as possible because of the booming population in the New Territories and East Kowloon. 'West Rail is a very high priority project, but there are also the other urgent projects so the Government will have to reserve some of the funding for these,' he said. Phase one of the West Rail will see the construction of a passenger line from West Kowloon to Yuen Long by the end of 2002 with an extension to Tuen Mun by the middle of 2003.