Hong Kong’s MTR Corporation to ‘carefully consider’ opening part of scandal-hit Sha Tin-Central rail link by mid-2019
- Company plans to open some stations – Tai Wai, Hin Keng and Diamond Hill – on link before middle of next year, lawmaker Michael Tien says
Hong Kong’s troubled MTR Corporation is considering partially opening the scandal-plagued Sha Tin to Central rail link by the middle of next year despite ongoing investigations into the structural safety of a key station.
According to lawmaker and former rail boss Michael Tien Puk-sun, the company planned to open some stations – Tai Wai, Hin Keng and Diamond Hill – along the “Tuen Ma line” of the long-delayed link before the middle of next year.
The line runs between the West Rail’s Tuen Mun terminal and Tai Wai on the Ma On Shan line via Hung Hom station.
The stations form part of the Tai Wai to Hung Hom section, which was expected to open in the middle of 2019 after the original target of December this year was pushed back.
Tien, a former chairman of rail operator KCR before it merged with the MTR Corp in 2007, said opening the three stations could divert busy passenger flows from Kowloon Tong to Diamond Hill.
“With the opening of these stations, those who want to travel to East Kowloon and the Island East could simply switch lines at Diamond Hill instead of the current Kowloon Tong. It can relieve the passenger burden at Kowloon Tong,” Tien said on Wednesday, adding that Diamond Hill had sidings which would enable trains to turn.
In a reply to the Post’s inquiries, the MTR Corp said the feasibility of a phased opening needed to be “carefully considered” as it might affect the remaining works on the section.
“The MTR Corp targets opening the whole section from Tai Wai to Hung Hom for the Sha Tin to Central Link,” it said.
“Whether phased opening is plausible will depend on a number of factors, including project progress, whether the signalling system can support this and any impact on train operations and the entire railway network as a whole.”
The Transport and Housing Bureau said that a partial opening of the link involved various complicated technical and railway operational issues and that the government would explore the suggestion with the company in a “timely manner”.
Tien also called for the rail giant to extend the partial opening to Ho Man Tin station as a way to “redeem its sins” over the fiasco surrounding Hong Kong’s most expensive rail line.
“The MTR Corp should adopt this proposal to redeem its sins over the delays to the link caused by many issues including the construction scandal,” he said.
“Now we don’t know when the expanded Hung Hom station can be completed. The extension to Ho Man Tin could enable residents in Kai Tak and To Kwa Wan to cross the harbour by rail.”
The expanded Hung Hom station on the HK$97.1 billion (US$12.3 billion) project was at the centre of allegations that steel bars were cut short to fake proper installation into couplers on the platform. It remained unknown when the station would be ready for opening.
A high-level inquiry was being conducted into the alleged shoddy work while the government was considering plans to crack open the platform and related walls for examination.
The MTR Corp said the revised commissioning date for the Tai Wai to Hung Hom section was dependent on the results of verification tests on the station platform.
The Hung Hom to Admiralty section, originally slated for December 2020, had been delayed to 2021 before the scandal broke out in May.
Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan earlier admitted further delays to the whole 17km link would be inevitable given the circumstances.
As at the end of June, about 98 per cent of the Tai Wai to Hung Hom section had been completed.