MTR Corp (MTRC) has questioned the fairness of a government proposal to revise the route of the $33 billion Sha Tin-Central rail link - a project that the company lost to rival Kowloon-Canton Railway Corp (KCRC) last year. Controversy over the rail link intensified yesterday after the Secretary for the Environment, Transport and Works, Sarah Liao Sau-tung, said KCRC was studying an option to extend its East Rail, which now terminates in Hunghom, across the harbour. It is understood the option has further disappointed MTRC and is expected to widen a long-running rift between the two rail firms. 'Taking the East Rail across the harbour [rather than the Sha Tin-Central rail link] ... was specifically rejected in the government rail development strategy,' an MTRC spokesman said, adding that the corporation saw the proposed extension of the East Rail to the Hong Kong Island as a violation of the original bidding conditions. MTRC was seeking the government's clarification on its rail policy, he said. A spokesman for the Environment, Transport and Works Bureau said extending the East Rail was just 'one of the alternatives' KCRC was studying and a decision would be made late this year or early next year. Ms Liao, who hopes the option will allow passengers to travel from Beijing to Central directly without having to change trains, called for the route review in light of shifting demographics and population growth. The option, if enacted, would see the East Rail extended to Exhibition station at Wan Chai and Admiralty station, whereas the section between Tai Wai and Hunghom through East Kowloon would remain unchanged. Under the original plans, the East Rail would have been extended to Tsim Sha Tsui East and a fourth cross-harbour tunnel built for the Sha Tin-Central rail link. The proposed revision has exacerbated the long-standing rift between the two rail firms. MTRC has said the Sha Tin-Central rail corridor was on its drawing board for more than 20 years and had spent $42 million preparing its bid. 'The government realises the bid has damaged the relationship between MTRC and KCRC ... Their tense relationship has made it difficult to get MTRC to the negotiating table for fare discounts and train interchanges,' a source close to the government said. KCRC, which offered a lower bid, won the project several days before Ms Liao's ministerial appointment in July last year. MTRC's disappointment over the loss of the Sha Tin-Central rail project was highlighted in the recent farewell comments of its former chairman and chief executive Jack So Chak-kwong, who singled out the failed bid as a major regret of his eight-year stint with the firm.