Cross-harbour section of Hong Kong’s most expensive rail project to open on May 15

  • Executive Council approves move, with tests, trial runs for Hung Hom-Admiralty section of Sha Tin-Central rail link completed
  • Commuters can reach Kowloon Tong from Admiralty in 13 minutes via the new line, which will extend to 46km through 16 stations

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Hong Kong’s most expensive rail project will open to the public on May 15. Photo: Nora Tam

The Hung Hom-Admiralty section of the long-overdue Sha Tin to Central link, the last remaining part of Hong Kong’s most expensive rail project yet, will fully open on May 15, marking the end of a project plagued by repeated delays and cost overruns.

The Executive Council, the de facto cabinet of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, gave the go-ahead for the long-awaited launch on Tuesday, according to a source.

An insider said relevant tests and trial runs on the cross-harbour section of the HK$90.7 billion link had been completed and it would be ready for the launch in mid-May.

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Railway operator MTR Corporation and its contractors had been under investigation on several occasions – including through a government-appointed commission of inquiry, a probe by an expert team of officials and an auditors’ review – for their handling of the project, which has been plagued by shoddy work and cover-ups.

The section, also known as the cross-harbour extension of the East Rail Line from Hung Hom station to Admiralty station, via the new Exhibition Centre stop at Wan Chai North, will see the rail line extending to 46km through 16 stations. It will take about 13 minutes from Admiralty to Kowloon Tong via the new line, seven minutes to Hung Hom and three minutes to the Exhibition Centre.

A view of Hung Hom Station, part of the MTR’s Sha Tin to Central Link. Photo: Sam Tsang

With the new extension, the East Rail Line will become the fourth cross-harbour railway route which will directly connect the northeast New Territories, Central Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. Passengers will be able to reach the commercial, convention, exhibition and financial hubs in the Wan Chai North and Admiralty areas without changing lines.

The opening of the cross-harbour extension has been pushed back several times because of various issues, including shoddy work, rectification works at Hung Hom station and vandalism of the connecting East Rail Line by anti-government protesters during the social unrest in 2019.

Originally slated to open in December 2020, the date was pushed back to the fourth quarter of last year and the target was changed again to the first quarter of this year.

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The MTR Corp announced in October last year the project would be delayed for a third time until June or July this year because of setbacks caused by signalling glitches.

The rail giant has since managed to reduce the delay as it plans for a launch before July 1, on the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule.

The Tai Wai-Hung Hom section of the Sha Tin to Central link – part of what is now the Tuen Ma line connecting Wu Kai Sha and Tuen Mun – opened at the end of June after repeated delays at Hung Hom station, where a whistle-blower revealed the shoddy work.

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