The financial budget unveiled on Wednesday revealed that the latest estimates for the new Central Kowloon route highway project stand at HK$43.7 billion. The sum is 3.4 times more than original the amount tabled in 2002.

The infrastructure project is set to commence during the next financial year. According to the Highways Department website, the highway will extend for 4.7km from Yau Ma Tei through to the Kai Tak Development and Kowloon Bay. It is expected to relieve traffic congestion in Central Kowloon and includes a 3.9km long tunnel.

It is predicted that the construction of the highway will take seven years and could be online by 2023.

Proposed Central Kowloon route. Photo: GovHK.

The cost of the project was adjusted in 2002, when it was proposed that the highway could carry three lanes instead of two. It was then predicted that the project will cost HK$10 billion. Now, at HK$43.7 billion, each kilometre averages HK$9.2 billion, much higher than the high-speed rail’s average cost at HK$3.2 billion per kilometre, Ming Pao reported.

The Executive Council authorised the project last month, but no price was stated in the gazette, RTHK reported.

Proposed Central Kowloon route. Photo: hyd.gov.hk.

The Professional Commons convenor Albert Lai Kwong-tak said that it was unreasonable for the project to have a threefold increase in cost and said the government could be overestimating the cost of the project due to pressure surrounding over expenditure in projects in recent years.

“It’s a self-defence mechanism – better to overestimate than underestimate,” he said.

The Highways Department has yet to respond to media inquiries by RTHK and Ming Pao.

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Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.