Contract extension likely

THE Government is likely to extend the validity of the contract for the Central and Wan Chai reclamation project for a third time beyond the present March 8 deadline, pending Chinese approval.

Any further extension would be granted at the risk of the project falling behind schedule. The original completion date for the reclamation was mid-1997.

A contractor said he expected the Government would soon seek his opinion on a further extension on the tender's validity. But he had no idea on the length of the extension.

Noting that the Government had asked contractors to accelerate works in the light of a delay in the starting date of the project, he said it was difficult to give an exact date beyond which the reclamation works could not be completed by mid-1997.

The increase in project cost would depend on the conditions of the contract, he said.

The 21-hectare site will provide land for commercial buildings as well as the Central terminus of the airport railway.

A government official said no decision had been made on whether to further extend the validity of the contract.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the United Democrats of Hongkong, Mr Martin Lee Chu-ming, yesterday wrote to the senior representatives of the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group - Mr Tony Galsworthy and Mr Guo Fengmin - urging the two governments to resume airport talks as soon as possible.

Mr Lee said they were worried that the lack of progress in the Sino-British talks on the financial arrangements for the Chek Lap Kok airport and its associated rail link would cause a severe delay to these two projects.

If the airport railway could not be completed as scheduled, it might affect the useage of the new airport, Mr Lee wrote.

He called upon both governments to deal with the airport issue separately from the current row over political reform.

Another United Democrat legislator, Mr Albert Chan Wai-yip, called on other legislators to continue to approve funding for the airport core projects.

Among the six projects to be wholly funded by the Government, Mr Chan said the legislature had already approved $44 billion out of a total of $60 billion needed.

It was unwise to stop granting the remaining $16 billion for a host of minor projects to facilitate the completion of the six projects, he said.

Apart from the Central and Wan Chai reclamation project, other minor projects pending funding from the legislature include supporting facilities for Tung Chung new town, an exchange area for Tsing Ma Bridge, roadworks for the West Kowloon reclamation, water supplies for North Lantau and others.

The 17-strong Co-operative Resources Centre earlier said they might not approve funding requests for the major airport projects if Britain failed to reach an agreement with China.