Transport experts say the KCRC will struggle to recover the HK$10 billion it cost to build the Lok Ma Chau spur line when it opens in July. Passenger numbers on the cross-border rail link will be so low, they say, that revenue will cover only operational and depreciation costs. A senior source at the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation admitted it 'will not be that profitable'. Based on a fare of HK$20 and last year's operating profit margin of 45.9 per cent, it will take the company 43 to 54 years to earn a return on the HK$10 billion if it achieves its passenger figures. A KCRC spokesman expected between 55,000 and 70,000 people a day to travel on the line between Sheung Shui and Lok Ma Chau by the end of the year. But the source said: 'Most of the passengers taking the new link will be those already taking the East Rail to Lo Wu. There will not be a lot of new passengers.' He said the fare had to be the same as that charged on the East Rail to Lo Wu. If it was higher, not many people would travel on the new line. If it was lower, the new line would undercut East Rail and lose money. The spokesman declined to reveal the return it would need on the investment and said the corporation had developed marketing plans to promote use of the line. The 7.4-km rail project was launched in 2002 to relieve congestion at Lo Wu. But the introduction of smart ID cards, e-channels and more immigration counters has largely reduced queues at the border. A plan to build a new town in Kwu Tung has been shelved and a tenfold increase in cross-border bus passengers has also reduced demand. Hung Wing-tat, associate professor at Polytechnic University's department of civil engineering, said: 'It is a bit like West Rail. Under the original plan the project was very viable, but they have had big problems with implementation. The spur line is not a viable project and is set to lose a lot of money.' Leung Kong-yui, a transport expert, said: 'It will not lose money in operational terms,' he said. 'But the profit will only be able to cover depreciation costs. 'The KCRC will not be able to get any return on its investment.' But he stressed neither officials nor the KCRC should be blamed. 'Nobody could predict what has happened in the past few years. It is just unfortunate.'