Rail extension in doubt

PROPOSALS to extend the Western Corridor to directly link Tuen Mun with the urban area drew reservations from the Government yesterday.

Secretary for Transport Yeung Kai-yin said the government-funded consultancy study recommended that a Western Corridor which did not pass Tuen Mun would be most cost-effective.

Legislators unanimously passed a motion, moved by the Liberal Party's Lau Wah-sum, which urged the Government to take full account of public opinion expressed in the Railway Development study.

Opening the debate, Mr Lau urged the Government to build a coastal line connecting Tuen Mun and Tsuen Wan in order to alleviate the burden of the Tuen Mun Highway.

United Democrat Lee Wing-tat asked if it was possible to speed up the construction of the Western Corridor to complete it before 2000.

According to the consultancy report, the Western Corridor would be a new railway from Lowu via Kam Tin to the urban area.

''In Tuen Mun, there are 400,000 people and yet there is no mass transit system to link the residents there with the urban area,'' he said.

He urged the Government to extend the Western Corridor to Tuen Mun.

The report recommended that the Western Corridor would end at Kam Tin in Yuen Long.

Tuen Mun residents have to take the present Light Rail Transit (LRT) to transfer to the Western Corridor.

Another Liberal Party legislator, Miriam Lau Kin-yee, suggested the Western Corridor be extended from Yuen Long to the northern tip of Tuen Mun if the extension work to Tuen Mun Town Centre was considered too expensive by the Government.

Mr Yeung said at the end of the debate that the Government had not yet finalised details of how the Western Corridor should be built.

But he added that the government consultants had recommended an alignment via Yuen Long because this was considered the most cost-effective.

''The consultants believed that the needs of Tuen Mun residents could be met by upgrading the LRT so that it would provide an adequate feeder service from Tuen Mun to Tin Shui Wai and Yuen Long, where users could transfer to the Western Corridor.'' He said the proposed extension of the Western Corridor from Yuen Long to Tuen Mun Town Centre was estimated by the consultants to cost about $6 billion.

The high construction cost was due to the huge underground work required for the section within Tuen Mun town.

He however promised to seriously consider the option of extending the corridor to only the northern part of Tuen Mun instead of its town centre.

Mr Yeung said an even higher cost of $12 billion would be required if a coastal line to Tsuen Wan was built.

The consultation exercise of the railway report will end by the end of July.