Funding to design the controversial $22 billion Route 10 superhighway was approved yesterday after 11 legislators who vowed to block it failed to attend the vote. The funds bid had earlier appeared certain to fail, with only seven Democrats and Tang Siu-tong of the Hong Kong Progressive Alliance saying they would back it in the 25-member Legco Public Works Subcommittee. However, the request for the $133.7 million design budget was approved by six votes to four, after most of the lawmakers who had voiced opposition to the road project missed the 8.30am meeting. The vote was concluded after just 20 minutes of debate. Independent legislator Andrew Wong Wang-fat said he missed his chance to vote against the project because he was busy 'wishing residents a happy Chinese New Year'. Most of the other absentees said they had prior engagements, as the timing of the meeting was only fixed last Friday. The Frontier's Emily Lau Wai-hing said she was stuck in traffic. Mr Wong, who represents New Territories East, defended his absence. 'I had arranged to visit residents and shopkeepers this week and extend New Year greetings to them. I do it every year and there is no reason I should cancel it,' he said. 'It is obvious the Government was playing tricks by fixing the meeting early in the morning at short notice.' Four of the subcommittee's six members from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB), which has been strongly critical of the project, failed to attend. DAB members Ip Kwok-him and Lau Kong-wah voted against the motion. Mr Lau denied suggestions his party had never intended to use its numbers to vote down the project. 'The DAB are not playing tricks. We will still seek to block it at the Finance Committee,' he said. Mr Ip said he was frustrated that the funding was approved because of the low turnout. He also pledged to try to block it when the request is tabled to the Finance Committee for final approval next month. Mr Ip said he would ask his DAB colleagues' assistants to remind the legislators when there were other important meetings. Three expected yes-vote legislators were also absent yesterday. The funding endorsement is the first step towards building Route 10, which will connect a planned $4.8 billion bridge to Shenzhen with north Lantau, via the so-called Deep Bay Link. The politically sensitive project was approved on the basis of population forecasts which were later rejected as overstated. Route 10 was also partially justified on the basis that it would serve a planned container terminal on the northeast coast of Lantau - but that site was taken by the Disney theme park. The operators of Route 3, a loss-making tollway which runs parallel to Route 10, have argued there is no need for the new road and have threatened legal action to stop it. Route 3 (CPS) Company yesterday 'congratulated the Government for successfully creating an excuse to raise taxes after successfully wasting $22 billion for Route 10'. Route 3 vice-chairman Winston Chu Ka-sun said: 'A 6-4 vote was not a convincing victory. The decision is not in the public interest. Our legislators owe the public an explanation.' Non-affiliated member Eric Li Ka-cheung said: 'There are too many meetings at Legco and it is unavoidable sometimes that some legislators cannot attend all of them.' Fellow independent legislator Lau Ping-cheung said: 'It was only a subcommittee meeting. The final showdown will be at the Finance Committee.' The DAB's Mr Lau said: 'Our position remains that there is no urgent need for Route 10 when we already have a Route 3 which is under-used.' The subcommittee last week voted 14-8 to approve $153.8 million for design work on the Shenzhen bridge and Deep Bay Link, after a two-hour debate.