Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is pressing the MTR Corporation to complete the high-speed link to Guangzhou as soon as possible and without further increases in budget, amid claims the railway operator had a shortfall of HK$3 billion on the project. Speaking before an Executive Council meeting yesterday, Leung said the government was "very concerned" about the line, which had been due to open this year but will not be finished until 2018 at the earliest. Its budget has swelled from HK$65 billion to HK$85.3 billion. "As the project manager, it [MTR] has the greatest responsibility and duty to complete the project in a cost-controlling manner," Leung said. His rebuke came after Michael Tien Puk-sun, chairman of the Legislative Council's transport panel, warned the MTR had only HK$3 billion in funding left, but needed HK$6 billion for three outstanding projects, including a tunnel and giant canopy at the West Kowloon Terminus. "In short, the money now left in the funds is not enough to cover the unfinished projects," said Tien, who chaired rail operator KCR before it was merged with the MTR in 2007. If lawmakers did not approve additional funding, the MTR could be forced to halt work, pushing the completion date beyond 2018, he said, adding that contractors may then pull out and seek compensation. READ MORE: High-speed rail link too idealistic from the start, Hong Kong transport minister admits An MTR spokeswoman denied contractors would pull out, adding that they were "working according to the construction schedules and performing their contractual obligations". She said the company was in constant communication with the government on funding and noted it was up to the administration, as project owner, to provide cash, and the MTR, as project manager, to control costs. "We want to complete the project as soon as possible," she added. Tien urged MTR chairman-designate Fred Ma Si-hang to hold an urgent meeting of shareholders to discuss how to settle the bill. Ma will succeed Raymond Chien Kuo-fung next year. READ MORE: We never pledged Hong Kong-mainland China high-speed rail link would finish on schedule: MTR chief The 26km line has long been controversial. While taxpayers are footing the bill, lawmakers have called for the MTR - which is majority owned by the government - to pick up the extra cost amid concerns its original estimates were too optimistic. About 70 per cent of the work is complete, at a cost of about HK$46.8 billion by the end of June. That included claims by contractors related to delays caused by design changes and bad weather.