$1.72b contract sparks outcry

A CONTRACT worth $1.72 billion has been awarded to reclaim land in Central for the terminus of the controversial new airport railway.

But the move yesterday outraged an Airport Consultative Committee (ACC) member who condemned the Government for not providing sufficient information on airport core projects.

The Mass Transit Rail Corporation - acting on behalf of the Government - awarded the Central reclamation contract phase one to a consortium comprising a Japanese and two French companies.

French companies Dragages et Travaux and the Bachy Soletanche group will join the Penta-Ocean Construction Company of Japan to form the joint venture which will begin work next month.

The reclamation will provide land for the airport railway's Central Terminus, of which the financing package is still being negotiated between Hong Kong and China.

It will add 20 hectares of land for the development of commercial buildings, road transport infrastructure and new piers for ferry services to Discovery Bay and the outlying islands.


The consortium's tender was the lower of two short-listed bidders and the price was within the Government's project estimate, a spokesman said.

But ACC member David Chu Yu-lin criticised the Government for issuing the contract without seeking input or even informing the ACC of its intentions.

''The ACC met on Wednesday and there were government and Provisional Airport Authority members in attendance, yet we were not informed the Central reclamation contract was about to be awarded,'' he said.

''It is yet another example of the Government keeping information, regarding airport core projects from the ACC, which leaves us to find out about developments after decisions have been made.


''The ACC should not have to find out about airport projects from newspapers, which is the position we continually find ourselves in. The Government is treating us in a very unfair manner.

''And I don't believe the lack of adequate and timely information is because of bureaucratic oversights.


''I am convinced the Government deliberately holds back information because it does not want the ACC to question and examine its decisions.

''The result of this secrecy will only have negative effects as without proper discussion the airport core projects will lead to the economy suffering through over spending and the environment suffering through poor decision making.'' Dragages commercial director Paul Ravelli said he was delighted the contract was awarded to his firm's consortium.

''We will begin work on September 1 and expect to complete the project in about 46 months,'' he said, adding he was confident the project would be completed within budget and without any severe difficulties.


''It is a huge project which involves some extremely complex work but I am confident we will overcome any difficulties,'' he said.

''The two main problems will be maintaining ferry operations during the project and ensuring sea water intake pumps, which provide water for air-conditioners in nearby buildings, continue to function.

''However I'm sure ferry operations and sea water pumps will continue to run as normal. We wouldn't want the Stock Exchange to overheat because we failed to keep the sea water pumps working.'' The contract brings the number of government construction contracts awarded on the Airport Core Programme to 25 with a total value of more than $28.5 billion.