The KCRC has been asked to proceed with in-depth planning for an express rail link between Hong Kong and Guangzhou using its West Rail line rather than a dedicated new line. The move was hailed last night as a step to consolidate Hong Kong's position at the centre of the Pearl River Delta - although a critic said its main aim was to salvage the underused West Rail line. The Executive Council, in a decision unveiled yesterday, said the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation should combine planning for the Hong Kong section of the express rail link with work on its Northern Link. The Northern Link will run between West Rail's Kam Sheung Road station and the Lok Ma Chau station on the eastward spur line now being built from the KCRC's East Rail line to the border. Trains will use a new terminus next to the West Kowloon station on the KCR's Southern Link - which will join West Rail's Nam Cheong terminus and Tsim Sha Tsui. The new terminus will allow interchange with the MTR's Tung Chung line and Airport Express services. Express trains will link Hong Kong with Shibi in Guangzhou and Longhua in Shenzhen. Using West Rail tracks will reduce construction, allowing completion by 2013, and yield a higher rate of return than a dedicated line. However, journeys between West Kowloon and Guangzhou will take an hour, instead of 48 minutes by a dedicated direct line, while the journey time from West Kowloon to the border will be nearly doubled. Tuan Chyau, a professor at Chinese University's department of decision sciences and managerial economics, said the plan would strengthen Hong Kong's position as the 'core city of the Pearl River Delta region'. It would bring huge economic returns and require very little investment, he said. 'The flow of passengers and goods between the two sides would definitely increase,' he said. But Henry Chan Man-yu, chairman of Yau Tsim Mong District Council, said: 'The purpose of the plan is mainly to salvage the West Rail line. New rail projects should be designed to meet future growth needs, instead of rescuing underperforming projects.' Pointing to West Rail and the KCRC's new Ma On Shan line and Tsim Sha Tsui East extension, Mr Chan called on the government to learn a lesson from the three projects and pay particularly close attention to the cost and viability of the express rail project. The KCRC said it would discuss with the government capital arrangements for the express link.