The MTR Corporation has said the cost of Hong Kong’s new rail link from Sha Tin to Central has increased to HK$97.1 billion, making it the most expensive rail project in Hong Kong.

It said in an announcement on Tuesday night that there had been an additional HK$16.5 billion budget overrun.

The approved project estimate for the entire project – as passed by the Legislative Council – was at HK$79.814 billion. The sum included HK$7.7 billion in advance works, HK$695 million in protection works, and HK$71.416 billion for the main works. In June, the LegCo also passed an additional funding package of HK$848 million for the advance works. The total cost of the project will now be HK$97.16 billion.

Sha Tin to Central Link
Sha Tin to Central Link. Photo: Chun Wo Development.

The corporation said around 70 per cent of the increase was attributable to additional costs arising from external factors, meaning the rest of the increase was related to its internal management issues.

The external factors included archaeological finds at the work sites of Sung Wong Toi Station, the late or incomplete handover of construction sites in Wan Chai North, and non-budgeted foundation works for a future top-side development at Exhibition Centre Station. It also blamed a shortage of labour and unfavourable ground conditions.

The 17 km new line will be more expensive than the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, which cost HK$86.4 billion.

Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting said it was regrettable that the corporation refused to reveal the budget overrun figures last week at the legislature.

He said that the corporation has to explain which parts of the overrun could not have been predicted beforehand, as it was not the government’s responsibility: “The government should not be an ATM.”

Sha Tin to Central Link
Sha Tin to Central Link. Photo: MTRC.

Federation of Trade Unions lawmaker Alice Mak questioned whether the corporation had made incorrect estimates, and said it should not blame the budget overrun on labour shortages and ground conditions.

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

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.