The delayed high-speed railway linking Hong Kong to Guangzhou may exceed its budget by as much as HK$25 billion, a senior official has revealed. It brings the total cost of the controversial project up to HK$90 billion.

High-speed rail route. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
High-speed rail route. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Michael Tien Puk-sun, chair of the Legislative Council Panel on Transport, said that the MTR Corporation will discuss financing and timetable issues during a special board meeting on Friday.

A number of independent non-executive directors, including pro-establishment lawmakers Abraham Shek Lai-him and Ng Leung-sing, were present at the meeting but did not respond to questions from the press.

Tien told RTHK that he expected the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link to exceed its budget by around $25 billion, adding that he had tried to negotiate the budget with both the government and MTR Corporation.

“I asked the government whether they could bear some of the costs,” Tien said. “I also spoke with MTR Corporation, saying that they should be responsible for the project’s lapses and discuss them with the board of directors.”

However, Tien stated that “both sides are standing firm.”

West Kowloon Terminus of the high-speed rail. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
West Kowloon Terminus of the high-speed rail. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

If the two sides cannot reach an agreement, the Legislative Council may carry out an investigation in accordance with the Powers and Privileges Ordinance to identify who is responsible for the budgetary excesses.

Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, Secretary for Transport and Housing, said that he is uncertain about the $25 billion surfeit. “We have not received the evaluation report from the MTR Corporation,” he said at the Hong Kong Association of Property Management Companies inauguration ceremony on Thursday.

MTR Corporation originally produced an estimated budget of HK$66.9 billion for the project in 2010, but this ultimately rose to HK$71.5 billion in 2014. The rail line’s opening date was also pushed back from 2015 to 2017.

Photo: MTR Corporation

Paul Benedict Lee is an undergraduate law student at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Paul has previously contributed to HK Magazine and Radio Television Hong Kong, covering issues ranging from local heritage conservation to arts features. He has also worked as a legal intern at local human rights firm Daly & Associates.