The transport minister has said he will not respond to a report that claimed the Shatin to Central Link rail line, currently under construction, will run over budget by HK$2o billion.

“I do not know what the basis of this number is, therefore I will not comment,” said Anthony Cheung Bing-leung on Friday, after attending a Legislative Council panel meeting on transport.

Sing Tao Daily on Friday cited a source as saying that the new rail service, which has encountered several engineering problems and delays, will cost almost HK$100 billion – the most expensive rail project in the city. The original estimate was HK$79.8 billion.

A construction site in Kowloon City of the Shatin to Central Link. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

In a report from the Transport and Housing Bureau and the MTR Corporation submitted to the Legislative Council in September, archaeological findings in To Kwa Wan caused an increase of HK$4.1 billion in costs, and preliminary works for expanding Admiralty station cost HK$1.3 billion more.

But the source told the newspaper that the budget overrun was also largely caused by MTRC’s “problematic internal audit system” which could not detect the budget increase in time.

Sing Tao reported that the funding for the project may be depleted entirely next year and that the corporation may have to ask for additional funds from the Legislative Council.

A spokesperson for the corporation told the newspaper that the Hung Hom to Admiralty part of the project has only reached about 30 per cent completion, and costs may be affected by different factors. A more accurate cost estimate could only be made in the second half of 2017, they said.

Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung Bing-leung. File screenshot.

Anthony Cheung said the government has to wait for the corporation to complete its estimate, and the government has its own consultant to review the information to be submitted.

He added that the government has been submitting reports to the Subcommittee on Matters Relating to Railways of the Legislative Council every quarter.

“The government and the MTR Corporation accept questions on every aspect from lawmakers – any difficulty encountered during the project, we tell the public with high transparency,” he said.

Cheung added that the annual report of the MTR Corporation released this year had mentioned that the project will cost much more than the original estimate.

East to West, North to South

Photo: MTRC.

The new service will connect rail services between Tai Wai and Admiralty.

The Tai Wai to Hung Hom section will extend the existing Ma On Shan Line from Tai Wai to the West Rail Line via East Kowloon to form the “East West Corridor.” It is expected to be operational in 2019.

The Hung Hom to Admiralty Section will extend the existing East Rail Line across the harbour to Wan Chai North and Admiralty to form the “North South Corridor.” It is expected to be operational in 2021.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.