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S for Transport spoke on transport policy objective


Following is a speech (English Only) by the Secretary for Transport, Mr Nicholas Ng, at the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers today (October 26):

Dr Chow, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me begin by thanking the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers for inviting me to speak on issues related to the Transport Bureau following the Chief Executive's Policy Address - 2001. I will share with you today what I see as the Transport Bureau's main focus of work down the road, and how it fits into the major mission of this year's policy address and our longer term vision for the transportation system in Hong Kong.

Announced in the aftermath of the disaster on September 11th, this year's policy address has a clear mission, which is to help Hong Kong weather the worldwide economic crisis and adversity that we believe will last for quite some time. Instead of pulling the purse strings and applying the brake on government spending, the Government affirms its commitment to an overall investment of $600 billion on infrastructure. We believe this commitment, which is four times the total investment for the Airport Core Programme, will boost public confidence, give a strong impetus to the economy, and will focus our effort on constructive groundwork that will set Hong Kong sailing again, perhaps faster and better than before, when the time is ripe.

Transport Bureau is playing a major role in this mission. The transport infrastructure programme we have taken on board involves a massive investment of over $300 billion i.e. half of the $600 billion investment that Government together with the two railway corporations will be making in Hong Kong. This investment on transport infrastructure alone doubles the total investment on the Airport Core Programme; equals the cost of, say, 3,000 standard secondary schools or 1,600 40-storeyed New Harmony public rental blocks. The amount also exceeds the total expenditure on capital works programme of the Government over the last decade.

Of the $300 billion, $200 billion is on a massive expansion of the railway network. This is in line with our transport policy of maintaining railway, the most efficient and environmentally friendly mass carrier, as the backbone of our transport system. At a cost of about $100 billion, six new rails will come into place in the next five years. From next year onwards, we will see the birth of one new rail every year. In 2002, MTR Tseung Kwan O Extension; 2003, West Rail; 2004, Ma On Shan Rail; 2005, Penny's Bay Rail Link; end of 2006 or early 2007, Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau Spur Line. Upon completion of the six railways, the existing network will increase by 40 per cent to over 200 kilometres. The population within rail catchment will be increased from 50 per cent to 65 per cent, and employment catchment from 65 per cent to 70 per cent. So far, some $40 billion have been spent mainly on the Tseung Kwan O Extension and the West Rail. For the coming few years, the six rails will involve spending of more than $56 billion and 7,000 job opportunities will be created.

For the next phase of railway development up to 2016, we will invest another $100 billion on six additional rails, namely, Shatin to Central Link; Island Line Extensions; Kowloon Southern Link; Northern Link; Regional Express Line; and Port Rail Line. The plan will further expand the rail network to over 250 kilometres, with about 70 per cent of the population and 80 per cent of the employment within rail catchment. We are now assessing proposals from the two Railway Corporations on the Shatin to Central Link, Island Line Extensions and Kowloon Southern Link. These three projects alone will create about 20,000 job opportunities within the coming five years. In parallel, we have also started the preliminary planning for the Regional Express Line, worked on its route protection, and will initiate discussion with the Mainland side on interface issues. We will also render our full support to KCRC, which, together with Guangzhou Railway (Group) Corporation and Guangshen Railway Company Limited is undertaking feasibility studies on the Port Rail Line. As regards the Northern Link, timing will hinge on development in North West New Territories, for which planning study is in progress.

On road projects, our total investment will exceed $100 billion in the coming ten years, and more than 20,000 job opportunities will be created in the coming five years. Our agenda includes the Shenzhen Western Corridor and Deep Bay Link, Route 9 linking Tsing Yi and Shatin, and Route 10 linking Tuen Mun and North Lantau. The Shenzhen Western Corridor will provide a fourth land boundary vehicular crossing to ease traffic pressure between Hong Kong and Shenzhen. Within Hong Kong, Route 10 will provide an additional external link to the Lantau Island and most importantly to the Airport, while Route 9 will form an arterial access to our container terminal.

It should come as no surprise if the projects I quoted above are not entirely new to you. By definition, transport infrastructure programme of such a mammoth scale must be implemented in stages. We have already seen the economic benefits of some of the projects which have been kicked off, and many of your members may indeed be involved in them one way or the other. What matters is that many more new contracts and job opportunities are being generated as these projects proceed to different stages or as new ones in the programme unfold. That brings me to the point on implementation.

All the talk on investment will amount to nothing if the plans do not get down to the implementation stage in a timely fashion. The Government's resolution to expedite infrastructure projects is therefore important. Our commitment is not just a slogan. You may have already noticed that the Tseung Kwan O Extension and the West Rail will be completed earlier than scheduled. As I have mentioned, we are now assessing the proposals of 3 priority railways and aim to complete these projects in the early part of their planned completion window of 2008-2013. On road projects, we have included 20 new road projects into the capital works programme this year, involving a total investment of $29 billion. We will try to compress the completion time of the projects as far as practicable. For example, we will endeavour to complete by end 2005 the Shenzhen Western Corridor, a project which would normally take 8 to 10 years to complete.

Our commitment in expediting infrastructure projects is also evidenced in our recent move to streamline the public works procedures. We are now adopting measures to allow parallel actions on tendering and funding application, and also on statutory gazetting and environmental impact assessment procedures. Besides, Government will further enhance co-ordination among departments to ensure that infrastructure is delivered in a timely manner. For example, the Environmental Protection Department will strengthen its advisory role in the environmental impact assessment process to ensure that major environmental issues can be identified and tackled at the earliest possible stage.

I must stress that our vision is not confined to the short term. Our transport infrastructure development programme will not only help alleviate the current economic strains, but will also contribute to the long term prosperity of Hong Kong. In particular, our development blueprint is set to help Hong Kong capitalise on the immense business opportunities in the Mainland and to enable it to benefit from and contribute to the synergy of the region. In the past five years, cross boundary flow has more than doubled (from 130,000 a day in 1995 to 270,000 a day in 2000) and vehicular flow increased by one third (from 23,000 a day in 1995 to 30,000 a day in 2000). The Shenzhen Western Corridor will double the vehicular handling capacity of our existing land crossing points, and the Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau Spur Line will increase the existing passenger handling capacity by 50 per cent. In the longer term, the Regional Express Line and the Port Rail Line will further enhance Hong Kong's position in the regional economy of the Pearl River Delta.

Our massive transport infrastructure programme will mean numerous opportunities for the engineering profession. The opportunity to participate in large scale projects will not only bring economic benefits but also enrich the profession's experience and exposure. More importantly, if we are to maintain Hong Kong's position as Asia's World City, we must equip it with, among other things, a world class transport infrastructure. To deliver such an infrastructure, quality engineers are a must. Your efforts and support are therefore instrumental in making our vision a reality. Let's join hands to welcome the upcoming challenges. Hong Kong counts on you. Thank you !

End/Friday, October 26, 2001


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