MTR's Guangzhou high-speed rail link won't open until 2018 and is 30 per cent over budget
The government is demanding answers from the MTR Corporation over the long-delayed, budget-busting high-speed railway to Guangzhou as it mulls who should pick up the bill, the transport minister said yesterday.
Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said the Highways Department had requested clarifications and supporting information after finishing a review of the MTR's report on the delays, submitted in June. The government is paying for the line, but there have been calls from lawmakers for the railway operator to pay part of the extra cost amid suggestions it was too optimistic in its cost calculations.
Cheung said the government was particularly concerned by the fact the 26km line to the border, originally slated to open this year, would not be ready until the third quarter of 2018, and that the budget would hit HK$85.3 billion, 30 per cent higher than the original estimate.
"As for the responsibility for the delay and higher budget, we would follow up and see if the MTR company as the managing firm should be responsible," Cheung said.
He said the government would make its audit report public and submit it to the Legislative Council.
Meanwhile, MTR chairman Dr Raymond Chien Kuo-fung dismissed complaints the company's fare adjustment mechanism was unfair. The formula, agreed with the government and based on inflation and pay in the transport sector, has been criticised for allowing the company to push up fares even when making sky-high profits.
Chien said a stable income was necessary for the MTR to provide reliable services, and he saw no urgent need for a review of the mechanism.
He was speaking as dozens of protesters from workers' groups protested to call for the mechanism to be changed, chanting slogans during the MTR-sponsored Hong Kong Race Walking event in Central.