STH's opening remarks on RDS-2014 (with video)

     Following are the opening remarks of the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, at the press conference on the Railway Development Strategy 2014 today (September 17):

     The Railway Development Strategy 2014 (RDS-2014) announced today is an update of the RDS-2000, providing a framework for planning the further expansion of Hong Kong's railway network during the period up to 2031.

     It recommends that seven railway projects be completed, tentatively between 2018 and 2026, with the preliminary total cost estimate in the order of HK$110 billion (in 2013 prices). These seven projects are:

(a) Northern Link and Kwu Tung Station;
(b) Tuen Mun South Extension;
(c) East Kowloon Line;
(d) Tung Chung West Extension;
(e) Hung Shui Kiu Station;
(f) South Island Line (West); and
(g) North Island Line.

     When the seven recommended projects are completed, the total length of Hong Kong's railway network would grow to over 300 kilometres, covering areas inhabited by about 75 per cent of the total population and about 85 per cent of job opportunities.

     The expanded railway network would help shorten the journey time of commuters, bringing direct economic benefits of $3 billion to $4 billion a year. As to environmental benefits, roadside air pollutants and greenhouse gases would be reduced by 2 per cent to 4 per cent per year.

     The new railway projects would also bring strategic social and economic benefits, such as integrating land planning, releasing the development potential of peripheral areas, strengthening connectivity among districts, creating job opportunities and relieving road traffic congestion.

     Among the seven recommended projects, the East Kowloon Line is a new proposal after taking into account feedback during public consultation and examining further the transport needs of the Kwun Tong North area.

     Three projects consulted upon during public engagement - namely the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Western Express Line, the Coastal Railway between Tuen Mun and Tsuen Wan and Siu Sai Wan Line - are not recommended by the consultant for taking forward before 2031, due to an insufficient economic and financial case.

     RDS-2014 is a strategic blueprint. Detailed planning and feasibility studies will have to be conducted. The timeframes now set for implementing the seven projects are indicative at this stage. Funding arrangements have to be worked out.

     As railway projects require enormous investment, we will critically examine the financial implications to the Government and consider the most appropriate implementation programme and financing arrangements for each project. For most of the projects, the implementation timetable should tie in with that for the New Development Areas and new housing projects concerned in order to ensure the best allocation of our limited resources.

     The implementation of individual projects encompasses a chain of pre-construction activities, including local community engagement, which will last for several years. When the project proceeds to the construction stage, there may be a need for land resumption. We will also have to face construction industry capacity issues and any unforeseen engineering challenges. All these factors may affect the present indicative implementation windows.

     Some people in the community may be concerned about the railways dominating future public transport. We must put railway development in proper context. Given the limited road space in Hong Kong, our challenge is to provide efficient and reliable public transport services for millions of passenger trips every day. Thanks to the extensive coverage of the existing railway network, over 90 per cent of daily journeys are on public transport, the highest among major cities in the world, including Tokyo, Singapore, Seoul, London and New York. But railways will not monopolise public transport. Even with the commissioning of five currently constructed railway lines and the implementation of the seven proposed railway projects, the rail share would only rise from around 40 per cent at present to around 50 per cent in future. The existing share of franchised buses in public transport is over 30 per cent.

     We will soon conduct a Public Transport Strategy Study to look into important issues relating to other public transport modes, aiming to map out a balanced, efficient, accessible, multi-modal and sustainable public transport network.

Ends/Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Issued at HKT 19:25