AFTER 36 years of government service, the Director of Highways, Kwei See-kan, will retire on December 3 - his 60th birthday. ''I'm just going to see what happens when I retire - to see if I enjoy it or not,'' he said about his plans for the future. ''I'd like to spend time on music. I like to listen to classical music, and I also aim to spend some more time on photography.'' His department, which has 1,700 staff, is involved in the planning, design, construction and maintenance of highways. Transport planning and public transport come under the Transport Department. Although many people involved in the Airport Core Programme think of him as a Highways Department man, Mr Kwai has worked in a variety of positions since starting work for the Hong Kong Government in 1957. His career as a civil servant began in the Water Works Office, which later became the Water Supplies Department, and he worked on many of Hong Kong's fresh water reservoirs. Later, in the Territory Development Department, he worked on the new towns of Tuen Mun and Sha Tin. When at the Urban Area Development Office, he worked on the early phases of design for the West Kowloon Reclamation. Mr Kwei was born in Guangzhou, the third of four brothers, but moved to Hong Kong with his family, during World War II when he was aged seven. He later studied for a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering at Hong Kong University, and graduated in 1956. He first worked for an architectural firm, preparing calculations for buildings, before taking up his original government post in 1957. ''When I first started working, I spent time on the service reservoirs and the main pumping stations,'' he said. In 1962, he received professional qualification by being recognised by the Institution of Civil Engineers in London, and was promoted to the rank of engineer. He then went to work on the Shek Pik reservoir on Lantau Island. When he first joined the Territory Development Department, he worked on site formation, roads and drainage. He was chief engineer of Tuen Mun and Sha Tin new towns between 1973 to 1981. ''When I got my promotion at the end of 1980, I was transferred to the Highways Department, and worked for about a year on general duties and overseeing construction management,'' he said. ''We started on the New Territories Circular Road. The last section opened earlier this year. ''We did early studies on the Lantau Fixed Crossing. ''Work also started at that time on the Island Eastern Corridor.'' When he returned to the Territory Development Department as project manager in 1983, there was a shortage of schools in the new towns. ''We were in a hurry to build primary and secondary schools,'' he said. ''In those days, we had a multi-disciplined office. ''We had the architects, planners, and engineers all reporting to the project managers, so we worked as a team. ''I think that has been very successful.'' In 1986, he was transferred to the Urban Area Development Office, working on water quality. He was also involved in the early studies on the West Kowloon Reclamation, the Central and Wan Chai Reclamation, and the Green Island Reclamation. ''Earlier on, there was a strategic development study, the predecessor to the PADS study, which identified the major reclamation areas to accommodate future growth. ''I was involved in the study itself, but the actual execution was carried out by the Civil Engineering Department, and my successor in the Urban Area Development Office. Early in 1989, he joined the Highways Department as deputy director. In September of that year, when the director of highways, Harold Beaton, resigned, Mr Kwei became the first Chinese to hold the post of Director of Highways. One of the most recently completed Highways Department projects is the escalator running from Central Market to the Mid-Levels. ''I think there is a very good workforce in Hong Kong. ''Elsewhere, for example, you might find more labour disputes taking place on site. That actually happened on the Humber Bridge in Britain.'' The government started work on the Lantau Fixed Crossing in the late 1970s. ''When the government finally decided to build the Lantau Fixed Crossing, in 1991, it was a very hectic period for us. ''We were starting to think about fixed-price lump-sum contracts, so everything had to be dealt with urgently. ''We then decided to go for design and build for the Kap Shui Mun bridge. ''We took advantage of individual contractors' skills to come up with an economical design of the bridge. ''The original conceptual design was a suspension bridge, and that did not prove to be the best solution really. ''It's different from the Tsing Ma where you have a long span and there is no other solution but a suspension bridge. ''The towers should be completed by the end of the year.'' He reflected on the accomplishments of the Highways Department in the Airport Core Programme. ''We have all the three contracts in route three - the Cheung Ching Tunnel, the Rambler Channel Bridge, and the Kwai Chung Viaduct - and also the two West Kowloon Expressway contracts, plus the Western Harbour Crossing. ''The Planning Department is now updating the Territorial Development Study.''