At a special meeting, 99.83 percent of MTR Corporation minority shareholders voted in favour of continuing construction of the high-speed rail project’s Hong Kong section on Monday.
The passing of the resolution means that the company’s minority shareholders have approved of a supplementary agreement, under which the government will be paying HK$19.6 billion in cost overruns related to the express rail project. The amount will later be repaid by the MTRC through special dividends.
The agreement also states that the company, and not the government, will have to foot the bill for any overrun in costs above HK$84.4 billion. However, the potential for further cost overruns was unlikely, MTR Corporation Chairperson Frederick Ma Si-hang said.
Some critics have noted that taxpayers might still have to cover the costs, as the government is a 70 percent shareholder in the MTRC.
The deal will be effective only if the Legislative Council Finance Committee approves of the HK$19.6 billion by September 30. Ma has appealed to lawmakers not to filibuster the approval of funds, saying that – if construction is halted – many people will be unemployed and it will be an international joke, RTHK reported. Ma also said that it was impossible at this stage to turn the West Kowloon terminus into a shopping complex or a columbarium.
At the meeting, small shareholder representative Roy Tam of the Neo-democrats raised the joint immigration checkpoint issue, voicing concerns that the high-speed rail project will destroy the One Country Two Systems agreement. Ma said that the company has no role to play on this issue. Other shareholders said that if the project was left incomplete, it would be a blow to Hong Kong’s economy.
Even if the funding and construction went smoothly, the government could still make a ruling and fine the MTRC for delays and over-expenditure, meaning that there are still risks for minority shareholders, i-Cable TV reported.
Bridge funding approved
On Saturday, the Legislative Council Finance Committee voted to pass the HK$5.4 billion funding request for the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge project after an eight-hour meeting. Finance Committee Chairperson Chan Kin-por cut the number of motions submitted by pan-democrats from 700 to 82 and abruptly moved the agenda to a voting session.