From a planning perspective, the six new railways proposed in the second Railway Development Strategy are a logical expansion of the existing network. When they are completed, commuting around town or to and from the mainland will be both faster and more comfortable. But many people ask: could they be built sooner? Unfortunately, the answer seems to be no, considering the string of caveats which officials have inserted into their strategic document. Like other papers on the subject, the plan stresses that any new railway projects must provide a commercial return to the Mass Transit Railway Corporation and the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation, or any other operators. In implementing the projects, such factors as the increase of transport demand and pace of development in strategic growth areas must be considered. There is merit in this conservative approach, for it precludes our railways from becoming a drain on public revenue. However, longtime residents know this policy has also meant that new railways will not be built until buses along their routes are overloaded, and roads clogged. And when a decision finally is made to build a railway, construction always brings additional serious congestion. Such inconveniences have to be borne because our risk-averse Government wants to be absolutely certain there is sufficient population growth to ensure that fare revenues will finance construction, debt service, operation and maintenance. That is probably why the railway plan still talks about completing the three most urgently-needed lines - the Sha Tin-Central Link, Island Line extensions and Kowloon Southern Link - in 2008 at the earliest, even though anyone spending a few minutes at nearly any time of day at stations like Sha Tin, Kowloon Tong, Mongkok, Wan Chai or Causeway Bay could not fail to recognise the need for new lines now. The demand for the new railways is certainly there. Deciding to build them is one piece of good news for the travelling public. But, considering the economic and environmental spinoffs from railways, there is also a good case for the Government to allot even more money and to build them sooner rather than later.