My Take

Delayed projects - from bridge to high-speed rail - a blot on Hong Kong-mainland China cooperation

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 November, 2015, 1:43am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 November, 2015, 1:51am

The costs keep going up and the completion dates keep being pushed back.

That's Hong Kong's infrastructure projects for you. Whatever happened to our famous engineering prowess where we once reclaimed our harbour, built tunnels and levelled mountains at the drop of a hat?

The latest news is that the airport's third runway project is estimated to soar 52 per cent to HK$56.2 billion. And work hasn't even started.

Apparently the experts back in 2010 didn't realise the difficult work involved in the land formation and marine foundations under the proposed runway.

Did geographical conditions change so much in the last few years?

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai bridge - for which our city has budgeted HK$117 billion for its construction - will miss its 2016 deadline by a year, if not more. It's not clear how much extra that will cost. But contractors are worried the extra HK$5.46 billion already sought by the government and even the HK$1.6 billion emergency fund may not be enough.

It all sounds like a repeat of the much-heralded HK$67 billion high-speed railway linking Hong Kong with Guangzhou.

The 26-kilometre Hong Kong underground link was originally scheduled to open this year. Now it looks like it won't happen until at least 2017, if you are optimistic.

It's in the nature of such large-scale projects to often cost more and take more time to build than foreseen.

But when you keep feeding taxpayers with rosy estimates and then coming back to ask for more and more, you lose public trust.

The bridge and the rail link are supposed to be showcases of mainland-Hong Kong cooperation. Such bungles undermine confidence in such cooperation at a time when anti-mainland sentiments are at a record high. They naturally lead to speculation, justified or not, that Hong Kong has been pressured into these projects and taken for a sucker by the mainland.

Interestingly, studies and estimates on the third runway dating back a decade have been far more transparent, if some are still wide of the mark. That may be because it's a purely Hong Kong project.