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LCQ2: Environmentally friendly linkage system in Kowloon East

Following is a question by the Hon Paul Tse and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (May 14):

Question:

The Government plans to construct an environmentally friendly linkage system (linkage system) to enhance the connectivity between Kowloon East (including the Kai Tak Development Area, Kowloon Bay and the Kwun Tong Business Area) and other districts.  After commissioning a consultancy study on various types of systems (including monorail and modern tramways, etc.), the Government has proposed the two-way elevated monorail option and forecasts that the linkage system can be commissioned in around 2023.  The Government has consulted the public on its proposal and is now collating the views received.  On the other hand, the MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL) indicated on the 15th of last month that there was delay in the project to construct the Hong Kong Section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link (XRL project) undertaken by it, and the Secretary for Transport and Housing said that he was totally caught by surprise by such information.  There are views that apart from the possible problems of huge overspending, inaccurate estimations, improper supervision, hiding the truth from superiors and misleading subordinates, the delay in the XRL project may be attributed to the fact that MTRCL, being the dominant market player, had difficulties in deploying resources and construction manpower to carry out a number of large scale projects (including those relating to XRL, the Shatin to Central Link and the South Island Line, etc.) simultaneously.  As such, it is inappropriate for the Government to entrust MTRCL to construct the linkage system.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1)  whether it has assessed if it is suitable for the linkage system to be constructed by MTRCL and if MTRCL has sufficient manpower and resources to ensure that the system can be commissioned in 2023 as scheduled; if the assessment outcome is that the system cannot be commissioned on schedule, of the expected duration of such delay;

(2)  given the surging prices of construction materials in recent years, coupled with the risk of project delay, whether it has assessed if the costs of the proposed elevated monorail will be substantially higher than the original estimates; if the assessment outcome is in the affirmative, of the anticipated increase in the costs; and

(3)  given that the Hong Kong Tramways Limited has proposed that modern tramways is the most suitable option for the linkage system (and it has been reported that according to the latest proposal put forward by the company, the option will include the construction of an additional transportation link between Kwun Tong and the Cruise Terminal), and indicated that the system can be commissioned as early as in 2018 while the fare for a single journey will need to be set at merely HK$3 for attaining a breakeven, whether the Government will consider and examine afresh the option put forward by the company, with a view to avoiding the dominance of MTRCL in rail transport and over-reliance upon MTRCL for the construction and operation of mass transit systems?

Reply:

President,

Due to the limited road surface in Kowloon East, it cannot cope with the ever-increasing traffic activities on roads arising from the long term development of "Energizing Kowloon East".  As such, we need to introduce an elevated monorail Environmentally Friendly Linkage System (EFLS), which would occupy relatively less road surface, to serve as the backbone of linkage within the district.  The EFLS will also be supplemented by other modes of transport (including mass transit railway (MTR), environmentally friendly buses / minibuses and pedestrian facilities) in meeting the transport demand.

According to the outcome of our two-stage public consultation on the EFLS just concluded, the public generally supported the Government to conduct a detailed feasibility study on the EFLS in order to devise the way forward.  We plan to report the outcome of the above public consultation exercise to the Panel on Development of the Legislative Council in the latter half of May this year with a view to commencing the detailed feasibility study on the EFLS in early 2015.

My reply to the three parts of Hon Tse's question is as follows:

(1) and (2)  The proposed detailed feasibility study will further examine the alignment and construction costs of the EFLS, the financial performance and economic benefits, and the most suitable mode of project implementation and financial arrangements.  The study will also formulate proposals for the implementation, construction and operation arrangements of the project.  As such, it is premature at the present stage to consider entrusting the construction works to the MTRCL.  As regards construction costs, we have yet to make any detailed assessments at this stage.  The current estimate on construction costs are just ball-park figures.  The costs can only be ascertained in the detailed feasibility study.

(3)  We do not agree that a modern tramway running on at-grade level is a system suitable for Kowloon East.  The existing Kwun Tong and Kowloon Bay are highly developed and the road space available in the existing road network in these districts is already very limited.  As such, use of a modern tramway system would seriously affect other road users.  Moreover, connecting an at-grade level system to the existing elevated MTR stations at Kwun Tong and Kowloon Bay would be difficult and make it highly inconvenient for passengers to interchange between the two systems and, hence, undermine the overall accessibility of the central business district in Kowloon East.

Ends/Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Issued at HKT 12:31

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