Response to “Our Future Railway – Stage 2 Public Consultation”
1.1 The Hong Kong Government continues to adopt a proactive approach in the expansion of the local railway system, with the aim of improving accessibility to transport for local residents and maintain a competitive edge. The idea of a West Rail Line was conceived in 1993, actual construction began in 1998 and the railway was operational by 2003. It took only 10 short years for the Government to open up a transportation link through the north western part of the New Territories – a demonstration of true efficiency.
1.2 In 2000, the Government proposed the “Railway Development Strategy 2000” (“RDS”) as the future railway development blueprint for Hong Kong. Aside from merging MTR and KCR, the RDS also proposed the development of the West Rail Line and the construction of high-speed rails, amongst other projects. However, since the merger in 2007, the progress of the RDS project has become stagnated. For instance, the Shatin to Central Link (SCL), which was proposed in the RDS, did not begin designs until 2008 and was approved by the Legislative Council only in 2012. Currently, the estimated year of completion is set for 2020.
1.3 Furthermore, the Government only implemented stage one of the Local Enhancement Scheme last year, whilst the Highways Department only began the second stage of the Public Engagement project began only in February of this year (2013), with the aim of enhancing the railway system by constructing three major railways, namely the Tuen Mun to Tsuen Wan Link, the Hong Kong to Shenzhen Western Express, and the Northern Link.
2. Responses to the Public Consultation
2.1 In the 90s, the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation (KCR), under the supervision of the Hong Kong Government, completed the West Rail Project in only 10 years. Therefore, why did the Government need to wait 12 years before proposing the RDS enhancement consultation? Furthermore, this current proposal expects a comprehensive consultation to be completed only by 2031, which is – especially when compared with previous records – highly inefficient.
2.2 Indecisiveness is likely to the source of this continuous delay. In fact, the Tuen Mun to Tsuen Wan Link was proposed well before the West Rail project, and it was only reiterated in the current RDS proposal. It is unfortunate that no evident progress has been made in the past 12 years, and the project is now still only at its consultation stage. The Government should refrain from inaction and confirm the developments of the Tuen Mun to Tsuen Wan Link, lest the projected development costs become exponentially greater over-time due to inflation.
2.3 As mentioned, it has now been 13 years since the RDS was first announced. The number of residents along Castle Peak Road has increased to around 120,000, whilst the combined population of Tuen Mun and Tsuen Wan is estimated to be at a million. The sheer number of residents in the area should motivate the Government in confirming the development of the Tuen Mun to Tsuen Wan Link, as the railway would greatly alleviate the problem of traffic congestion for those residing in the area. The Government should decide upon this matter as soon as possible, and not delay any further.
2.4 The Hong Kong Government does not lack in financial reserves or in other resources to support this development. Yet it is hesitant to commit to this project. The Government should not conduct public consultations purely for the sake of public consultations, but should instead commence construction of the railway and implement the enhancement schemes in earnest, so as to mitigate future transport infrastructure issues.
3.1 The Government should immediately being improvements on the existing railway network system. For instance, the Government should extend the final stop of the Tuen Mun line to the Tuen Mun Ferry Pier, in order to meet the needs of the local residents.
3.2 Apart from the aforementioned, the Government should consider infrastructure development that compliments its residential development proposals in the western New Territories. With ongoing developments in the area, there will undoubtedly be a demand for the Tuen Mun to Tsuen Wan Link in the future.
3.3 The Government should reconsider the construction of the Northern Link and the Kwu Tung Station. The Kam Sheung Road Station could be designed to connect the north-east of the New Territories with the East West Corridor, and so form a circular railway system.
3.4 In addition, the Government should consider establishing the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Western Corridor to compliment the Hong Kong and Shenzhen developments. The railway could begin at Tung Chung, passing through Tuen Mun to continue toward to Pak Nai and Qianhai, with Shenzhen Airport as the final stop. Tuen Mun will eventually become a transportation hub, merging the western New Territories with the Shenzhen Baoan District. This development will bring about enormous economic and cultural benefits. Last but not least, the scheme not only benefits the residents of the western New Territories, but also enhances the development of Lantau Island, and could contribute towards the solution of land supply in Hong Kong.
New Territories Concern Group
20th May, 2013