A CRUCIAL section of the Route 3 highway would be completed on schedule despite a six-week delay in deciding who would get the contract, said Secretary for Transport Haider Barma. Legislator Alfred Tso Shiu-wai asked why the contract for the country park section of Route 3 - running from Ting Kau to Au Tau - had not been awarded, in effect delaying the entire Route 3 project. Route 3 is a dual three-lane expressway connecting Ting Kau bridge in the south with Route 2, the New Territories circular road, hence providing a direct link to the border crossing at Lok Ma Chau. Mr Barma said the delay came about because selecting the best bidder from the three competitors had become involved. 'The negotiation has proved to be quite complex . . . Only through this lengthy process have we been able to identify and select the short-listed tenderer with whom we're now in the final stages of negotiation,' he said. Mr Barma said he was confident the completion date of late 1998 would still be achieved. Liberal Party member Steven Poon Kwok-lim said he was worried Legco was in no position to reject any decision made by the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group regarding the franchise of the project. But Mr Barma denied it would be difficult for legislators to make any necessary alterations, considering that implementation of the project had in fact required legislation enacted by Legco. But since the project went beyond 1997 - in terms of implementation and expenses - it was sensible and practical to consult the Chinese beforehand, he said.