Nishimatsu Construction, one of Japan's largest contractors, has won a $1.15 billion contract to design and construct the Quarry Bay extension for the Mass Transit Railway Corp. The deal was confirmed by the MTRC in a letter last week to Nishimatsu and the five other competing construction groups that lost the bid. Nishimatsu is understood to have beaten French constructor Dragages to the project, which starts later this month. In third place was Gammon Construction, which was in partnership with Kvaerner, the Norwegian conglomerate that jointly owns Gammon with Jardine Pacific. Nishimatsu will build about 1.2 kilometres of twin-bored tunnels and 3.45km of new track to extend the Kwun Tong line from Quarry Bay to North Point stations. Work is to be completed by 2001. The aim is to provide a cross-platform interchange between Kwun Tong and Island Line trains to relieve congestion at Quarry Bay station, which is close to its design capacity of 36,000 passengers an hour. Nishimatsu will also expand North Point station to help increase passenger capacity. The firm's contract is part of a $4.9 billion package of work on the extension, the first to the existing system since the Eastern Harbour Crossing was built in 1989.