The KCRC's chances of landing the Sha Tin to Central rail contract will not be undermined by a row over a low-tender contract awarded on the West Rail project, according to outgoing transport chief Nicholas Ng Wing-fui. Speaking before his retirement at the end of the week, Mr Ng said yesterday the result of the new rail link tender would not be announced until an inquiry into the KCRC's contractual arrangement with communications giant Siemens was complete. The $100 billion rail network improvement programme was unveiled in May 2000, with a fourth cross-harbour rail tunnel as the centrepiece. The Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation and the Mass Transit Railway Corporation were invited to bid. 'They [the row and the tender] are two completely separate issues. We do not want people to link them together and make speculation,' Mr Ng said. 'The decision must be based on the terms offered by the two bidders.' KPMG Peat Marwick was originally appointed by the rail company to carry out the investigation after Siemens was given $100 million in addition to its $287 million tender bid despite failing to meet contract requirements. It was expected that the inquiry would be completed within eight weeks and the report submitted to the KCRC's managing board and the Government. However, the KCRC has dumped its external auditors and appointed another audit firm, Ernst & Young, to take over the investigation after KPMG demanded the KCRC cover any loss incurred from compensation claims arising from the report's content. The move is expected to delay the investigation by about three weeks and cost the corporation an extra $500,000. The railway revealed last month that it awarded contracts worth a total of $789 million over the past five years without putting them up for open tender. Mr Ng also said the KCRC would be listed on the stock exchange when the time was right. But he stressed the plan would not materialise in the short term because the corporation was still expanding in both management and infrastructure. 'Listing on the stock exchange is something to be considered after the corporation becomes stable,' he said. After spending 32 years in the Government, Mr Ng said he planned to take a long holiday, possibly visiting Yunnan. He had no plans to rejoin the Government as a minister and said he was more interested in working for charity.