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Hong Kong MTR

South Island Line faces more costly delays

MTR Corporation says long-awaited line will not be ready until late 2016 - a year behind schedule

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 November, 2014, 4:36am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 November, 2014, 4:36am

The long wait for a railway to the south of Hong Kong Island will get even longer, with the opening of the South Island Line pushed back a further six months, the MTR Corporation announced yesterday.

The delay - the latest in a series of setbacks for the MTR's ambitious expansion efforts - will also see the budget for the work rise HK$2.8 billion to HK$15.2 billion because of rising construction costs. The company will pick up the bill for the cost overrun.

The Highways Department was even more pessimistic, saying there was a "very high risk" that the new line would not even be ready in time for the new target date of late 2016. Until earlier this year, the line had been slated to open late next year.

Details of the delay - this year's second change in the line's target opening date - were revealed in a paper to the Legislative Council's subcommittee on railways. The problems have been blamed on the difficulty of excavation at Admiralty station, which is being vastly expanded to serve the 7km southern line to South Horizons in Ap Lei Chau and the Sha Tin to Central Link.

The MTR told the department in August that it was looking into blasting instead of mechanical digging to speed up the work at Admiralty.

"However, the MTR Corporation has yet to provide further information … to demonstrate the expected effects of blasting," the department said in the paper.

The company also announced that the Kwun Tong Line extension from Yau Ma Tei to Whampoa was now expected to open in mid 2016, rather than early that year.

Excavation of a platform tunnel at Whampoa was delayed for safety reasons because "mixed ground conditions and groundwater will make the excavation work more difficult", the MTR Corporation said.

The Legco subcommittee will discuss the paper on Monday, along with other delayed projects, including the troubled cross-border high-speed line. It will also hear plans for the opening of the West Island Line next month.

Michael Tien Puk-sun, chairman of Legco's transport panel, said costs would have been easier to control had the site been examined more thoroughly earlier. "The MTR completely underestimated the complexity of the works at Admiralty station," he said.