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Green light for local section of Express Rail Link

    The Executive Council has agreed that the Mass Transit Railway Corporation Limited (MTRCL) be asked to proceed with further planning and design of the Hong Kong section of the GuangzhouˇVShenzhenˇVHong Kong Express Rail Link (XRL).

    The section will be a 26-kilometre underground rail line that runs from the terminus in West Kowloon to the boundary at Huanggang, where it will connect with the XRL Mainland section.

    A Government spokesman said today (April 22) that the XRL would reinforce Hong Kong's position as the transport hub in southern China and integrate Hong Kong into the country's rapidly growing express rail network.

  "The Hong Kong section will run on a dedicated track with a maximum train speed of 200 km per hour, shortening the travelling time between Hong Kong and Guangzhou to just under 50 minutes, twice as fast as the Guangzhou-Hong Kong through trains on the East Rail alignment," the spokesman said.

    The two termini of the XRL will be at West Kowloon in Hong Kong and Shibi in Guangzhou. Intermediate stations include Futian and Longhua in Shenzhen and Humen in Dongguan. 

    Together with the adjoining Airport Express Kowloon Station and West Kowloon Station of the Kowloon Southern Link, the terminus of XRL would turn West Kowloon into a major rail hub.

    "The location also has a point-to-point connection with the heart of Central via the existing MTR network. Together with the new commercial development at the Kowloon station, it is set to become a prime business centre," the spokesman said. 

    The Hong Kong terminus will partly extend into the underground area of the West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD) to provide convenient access.

    "The integration into the WKCD will greatly enhance the prominence of the rail terminus as the gateway to Mainland China, and the WKCD as a regional cultural hub. 

    "It will generate more visits to the proposed art, culture and tourism facilities in the WKCD thereby promoting cultural tourism," the spokesman added.

    The Mainland terminus at Shibi, where the new Guangzhou Station is located, is one of the four biggest passenger transport centres in the country. In future, commuters will be able to switch to such express long-haul services as the proposed Beijing-Guangzhou Passenger Line at Shibi and the Hangzhou-Fuzhou-Shenzhen Passenger Line at Longhua.

    "Commuters from Hong Kong will be able to reach Shanghai in eight hours and Beijing in 10 in future, as compared with over 20 hours at present," the spokesman said.

    It is estimated that the XRL will carry about 100,000 passengers daily in 2020 and 120,000 passengers in 2030, generating an economic benefit of $83 billion over the next 50 years in terms of travelling time saved. The economic internal rate of return is about 9%.

    The project will create 5,000 jobs during construction and another 10,000 during its operation.

    After careful consideration of both the operational and financial implications, the Government has decided to adopt a concession approach to fund the estimated construction cost of $39.5 billion.  Upon completion, the MTRCL will be granted a service concession for  subsequent operation and pay the Government annually for the concession.

    Since the Government will fund the construction cost, the development rights for the site above the Hong Kong terminus will not be granted to the MTRCL.

    Works are expected to start in 2009 and be completed in 2014 or 2015.

Ends/Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Issued at HKT 18:16


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