Face Off: should the Hong Kong-Guangzhou high speed rail link project be suspended?

Helen Wong (JR)

Each week, our two teenagers will debate a hot topic. This week...

Helen Wong (JR) |

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A view of the construction site of West Kowloon Terminus of the Hong Kong section of the Express Rail Link.

Helen Wong, 15, Dallam School, Britain

The Hong Kong-Shenzhen-Guangzhou rail link has been delayed by more than two years. It is forecast that the initial budget of HK$65 billion that had been set aside for the project will dry up by June. So the government needs an additional HK$19.6 billion to complete the railway. Otherwise, the project might be scrapped.

It’s not wise to provide this kind of money simply to avoid delays. The initial budget was allocated despite huge controversy, and we certainly do not want to repeat the
same mistakes.

Putting the brakes on the high-speed rail link will give us more time to carefully consider the project, and allow lawmakers to debate the funding proposal before it is put
to a vote.

The rail link was supposed to be completed by 2015, but the completion date has been extended at least twice. The government has blamed unfavourable ground and weather conditions, as well as inflation, all of which are ridiculous excuses for insufficient research into the project. It is a severe blow to Hong Kong’s reputation.

As a result of the repeated delays, the construction cost has swollen to more than HK$85 billion. As things stand, the project will keep getting delayed and more funds will be required to finish it. This means that taxpayers will become a “cash machine” for the government as it tries to raise the funds.

Of course, halting the construction is not an easy decision but continuing the project without careful consideration is just throwing money into the sea.

Before approving additional funds, it is vital to rethink whether this will be worthwhile.

This railway project is too big to fail, and cannot be postponed indefinitely. The MTR and the government need to shoulder responsibility for their poor management and lack of supervision, causing budget overruns and delays.

A temporary halt to the construction, although undesirable, seems necessary so as to allow the authorities to take all factors into account and ensure a better rail service for all.

Veronica Lin, 16, Hong Kong International School

There’s no doubt that the Hong Kong-Shenzhen-Guangzhou high speed rail link should not be suspended.

With trains running at a maximum speed of 200km/h, the link will allow people to travel from one city to another in just 48 minutes. According to the Legislative Council’s security panel, on average more than 165,200 people cross the Hong Kong-mainland border each day. This astonishing “human jam” calls for action, and high-speed trains are very likely to play a vital role in reducing the huge crowds at customs checkpoints both in Shenzhen and Hong Kong.

It’s crucial for Hongkongers to accept the fact that Hong Kong is already a part of China. To begin with, they should allow their own culture to coexist in harmony with that of the mainland, because this would be beneficial to Hong Kong’s future prosperity. The link symbolises the Hong Kong government’s efforts to encourage more cultural exchange between the city and the mainland.

Suspending the project would further escalate the tension and hostility between Hongkongers and mainland tourists. Not only would it be a mistake, it’s also not feasible, as more than 77 per cent of the construction work has already been completed.

Despite the project requiring some additional funding, if the government were to suspend it, the billions of dollars that have already been spent would go to waste. This would be a tragedy for Hong Kong.

Moreover, the structure of the ground has been altered so much that it’s nearly impossible for existing construction sites to return to what they were before. Suspending the project and then restarting it later would take much more effort and money, and would be an even bigger burden on Legco, as well as Hong Kong’s taxpayers.