Subway plan scrapped in favour of a cheaper, 22km rail link The Macau government has dropped a controversial plan to build a subway, instead proposing an elevated rail system to ease the city's worsening traffic congestion. A 22km line would run down the Macau Peninsula and across Taipa Island, connecting the border, ferry terminal and airport with casino areas such as the Cotai Strip, according to a proposal released by the Infrastructure Development Office (GDI) yesterday. Depending on the outcome of a four-month public consultation, tenders may be sought for the project's first phase as early as next spring. Officials estimate the first phase would cost 4.2 billion patacas and take four years to complete. 'The new system would offer a great alternative [means] of public transport with huge capacity,' said GDI director Antonio Jose Castanheira Lourenco. 'Compared to the existing means of public transport in Macau, it would be safer, faster and friendlier to the environment.' The line would run over the cross-harbour Sai Van Bridge and have 26 stops. They would include the Hong Kong ferry terminal, airport, border crossing and Lotus Bridge. It would be able to carry 16,000 passengers an hour. Annual operating costs would be 90 million patacas, infrastructure officials say. They estimate it would generate a gross profit of 170 million patacas a year. Last year, 6,286 new cars were registered in Macau - a 24 per cent rise on 2003. They contributed to the worsening traffic jams in the 28 sq km city. The government has drawn up two unsuccessful proposals to build a railway with the help of Hong Kong's MTR Corporation. The first was not enthusiastically received, in 2003, when Macau's economic boom had not yet begun. Last year, a proposal for a 12 billion pataca subway system drew fire from critics who said it was too expensive and that Macau was too small to need a subway system. Francisco Chau, a GDI engineer, said the subway option was found to be too costly and would take too long to build. 'A subway system costs three to four times what an elevated rail system does,' he said. While welcoming the move to drop the subway plan, legislator Ng Kuok-cheong said more consideration should be given to Macau's old neighbourhoods in designing the rail system. The lawmaker also called for the government to consult the public on how to finance the project and on who should operate it. He suggested the financing be modelled on Las Vegas' rail system, which relied on casinos for a majority of the cost of construction. 'The casinos should be happy to contribute to a project that brings them more tourists,' he said.