Following is a speech by the Secretary for Transport, Mr Nicholas Ng, at the "Hong Kong Railway Development" seminar organised by the One Country Two Systems Research Institute Limited this afternoon(Wednesday):
"Railways: The Backbone of Hong Kong's Transport System"
Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen,
I am delighted to have the opportunity today to address the seminar on railway development jointly organized by the One Country Two Systems Research Institute Limited and the various professional institutions. The large audience of distinguished community leaders, professionals and academics at today's conference is indicative of the importance our community is attaching to the subject.
Our Transport Policy
Many of you here are familiar with the objective of our transport policy. Our aim is to provide a safe, efficient, reliable and environmentally friendly transport network, which can meet the economic and social needs of the community. We do this by a 3-pronged approach. First, we will continue to expand the transport infrastructure, but in a manner that will achieve sustainability. Second, we give priority to public transportation, in order to make the most effective use of our limited space. Third, we complement the expansion of transport infrastructure by effective transport management.
Railway Development in Hong Kong
For today's seminar, I would like to concentrate on the first prong of the strategy, in particular, on the part relating to railway development. In order to achieve a sustainable transport system, we have made a conscious policy decision to give priority to railways which will form the backbone of our transport network.
Our railway development programme has come a long way since the 70s. Currently we have a railway network extending 143 kilometres, carrying 3.4 million passengers a day, or about 36% of the total public transport patronage. We will see the network significantly expanded by more than 40% to 200 kilometres when five new railways are completed within the next five years. These five railways are West Rail (Phase I), Tseung Kwan O Extension, Ma On Shan Rail, Tsim Sha Tsui East Rail Extension and the Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau Spur Line, and they involve a total investment of $130 billion. By then the rail share in public transport patronage will increase to about 45%.
Second Railway Development Study (RDS-2)
But our railway development programme should not and will not stop here. In order to support the growth in population and the economy in an environmentally acceptable manner and, in view of the long lead time required for railway construction, we need to plan ahead. For this reason, the Government has commissioned a consultancy study to look at the next phase of railway development for Hong Kong. The Second Railway Development Study, which started in March 1998, is identifying railway projects which Hong Kong needs for the next two decades.
The preliminary findings of RDS-2 indicated a number of likely new rail projects to serve new population growth areas in our next generation of rail development. These include the rail line serving the South East Kowloon Development (EKL), a fourth cross harbour rail link (the FHC), and the North Hong Kong Line. I must hasten to add that the timing for implementing these projects needs to take into account the pace and final shape of the development of the relevant catchment areas. For example, the East Kowloon Line. While I appreciate that there is much public aspiration for the early implementation of this project, the development of the rail line depends on the development strategy and the population growth for South East Kowloon. Hopefully, by the end of this year when the South East Kowloon Development blueprint is more certain, we will then be able to have a more concrete idea on how to sychronise the alignment and time frame for EKL with the relevant development.
As regards the FHC, the RDS-2 consultants are exploring a number of options in terms of alignment and landing point. Later on in the afternoon, Mr. C. K. Mak, PGE/Railway Development will explain to you in greater detail some of the options which the consultants are examining. As the Secretary for Transport, I keep an open mind about all possible options. Our overriding principle is that any decision on individual railway lines must be made in the context of benefiting the whole transport network and meeting the long term development needs of Hong Kong. RDS-2 will be completed before the end of this year. We will make sure that the public will have the opportunity to be apprised of the findings and their long term interest will be served by our railway network.
It is obvious that in the years to come, our railway development programme will create substantial opportunities across a wide spectrum in the community. Many of you present today are leaders in the relevant fields and trades and your participation in the railway development programme at various stages would be most valuable. I look forward to sharing experience and views with all of you and would like to thank the hosts for providing the forum today for such purpose. With this remark, I wish the seminar a great success. Thank you.
End/Wednesday, May 12, 1999