The environment chief who turned down the $7-billion Lok Ma Chau rail link because it cut across wetlands inhabited by rare birds had failed to understand the project, the KCRC said yesterday. Yeung Kai-yin, chief executive of the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation, said he was surprised by Director of Environmental Protection Rob Law's decision and would appeal against it. The proposed spur line was rejected on Monday by Mr Law on the grounds of the adverse environmental impact on Long Valley, a key transit point for more than 200 species of birds. Mr Law said the rail developer had failed to explore all alternative alignments to the existing line and its proposed measures to offset the ecological impact of the project were inadequate. It is the first time the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) has rejected a major works project after public consultation since the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance came into effect in 1998. Approval is needed for the project to proceed. Mr Yeung, a former treasury secretary, said yesterday: 'I believe that Rob Law would definitely not have any prejudice against our project, as he is a very sincere official. But I can't rule out that he might have misunderstood or have not been able to fully understand our application.' Mr Yeung said the spur line's construction method differed from a conventional one, and insisted birds would not fly away, never to return, while work was being carried out. 'We're not going to fence off with iron wires the alignment site where the viaduct would be built. I guess the EPD might have some misunderstanding on that,' he said, adding that work would stop during the bird-breeding season. Mr Yeung said the KCRC stood firm on the existing proposed alignment, which the company considered a good balance between environmental, transport and community needs. He declined to speculate on the outcome of the appeal, which will be heard by an independent panel, but said: 'We are not absolutely without grounds to appeal.' He refused to say if the KCRC would start to review other alignment proposals while the appeal was being conducted. But he said the tendering out of the Ma On Shan rail and the Hunghom extension line would not go ahead until there was a result from the appeal. The KCRC explained that the spur line would affect forecasts of passenger numbers on these two lines, which would be funded by the Government and were awaiting authorisation by the Executive Council. Mr Yeung stressed that alternatives to the Lok Ma Chau spur line would be expensive as they required the relocating of major facilities like abattoirs and sewage treatment plants or resumption of several villages. The bill for relocation would top $5 billion and rail construction costs would rise 20 to 30 per cent, the rail developer estimated. If the spur line was not ready by 2004, it would also lead to serious congestion for Lowu-bound passengers at East Rail stations. Mr Law was assured yesterday his decision had the 'full support' of his boss, Secretary for Environment and Food Lily Yam Kwan Pui-ying, who believed the decision was made 'professionally'. She also said the bureau would release more information to support Mr Law's decision if necessary. 'I fully support Mr Law's decision,' she said. 'It does not mean [Mr Law] does not agree to meeting the needs of growing cross-border traffic. The decision was made after studying the environmental impact assessment report and the views of the public and [was based on] his professional judgment.' She said Mr Law had not been influenced by any other party but had arrived at the conclusion after consulting the Agricultural, Fisheries and Conservation Department. She was briefing the Legco environmental affairs panel on Tung Chee-hwa's initiatives announced last week in his Policy Address. Panelist Lau Ping-cheung, who represents the architectural, surveying and planning sector in the legislature, said the move gave the public the impression that one department was in conflict with another. Democrat Andrew Cheng Kar-foo said: 'A department is supposed to carry out a policy which has been collectively endorsed by the Government.' Executive Councillor Tam Yiu-chung urged the KCRC to find an alternative route. 'The route proposed by KCRC does affect the environment. I would like to know whether there is any feasible alternative.'