LCQ2: Railway Development Strategy 2014

     Following is a question by the Hon Chan Han-pan and a reply by the Acting Secretary for Transport and Housing, Mr Yau Shing-mu, in the Legislative Council today (December 3):


     The Government released the Railway Development Strategy 2014 (the Strategy) earlier, initially recommending the implementation of seven new railway projects between 2018 and 2026. However, the exclusion of the Coastal Railway between Tuen Mun and Tsuen Wan from the Strategy has disappointed quite a number of residents who have been striving for this railway for years. They are also worried that the future population growth in New Territories West will overload the railway network. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it knows the details of the residential development projects that will be built along the West Rail and completed within the next decade, including the additional population and traffic demand to be brought about by these projects;

(2) given that the new railway projects include the addition of Hung Shui Kiu Station to the West Rail Line, the construction of the Tuen Mun South Extension, and the construction of the Northern Link with Kwu Tung Station which connects the East Rail Line and the West Rail Line, whether the authorities have assessed the additional patronage that will be brought to the West Rail Line by these new railway projects upon completion; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(3) whether it has studied if the railway network after completion of the new railway projects will be able to cope with the traffic demand to be generated by future population growth in New Territories West; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; of the short, medium and long term measures, e.g. increasing the number of cars on each train, enhancing train frequencies or taking forward new railway projects, etc., to be implemented by the authorities to cope with the situation of a significant population growth in New Territories West and the West Rail Line reaching its carrying capacity?



     My reply to the three parts of the Hon Chan Han-pan's question is as follows:

(1) In the light of the Chief Executive's announcement in the 2014 Policy Address of the target of providing a total of 470 000 public and private housing units over the next decade. The Government has adopted a multi-pronged approach to increase land supply in order to meet the housing production target. Located at the major catchment of the West Rail Line (WRL), North West New Territories (NWNT), including Yuen Long and Tuen Mun, plays a strategic role in housing land supply.  

     According to the Policy Address delivered in January this year, about 150 sites have been identified as having the potential to be rezoned for public and private housing development. There are 14 such sites in Yuen Long and 22 in Tuen Mun. If they are rezoned as planned, these sites can be made available for housing development in the coming five years.  Although their specific development parameters have yet to be studied, the current rough estimation made by the Development Bureau indicates that such sites in Yuen Long can provide about 42 000 residential units while Tuen Mun can provide 32 600 residential units, to accommodate planned population intake of around 216 000. Separately, the Government has been actively taking forward the West Rail property development projects.  West Rail property development projects successfully tendered in recent years and under planning are at Annex 1.

     In parallel, the Government has commenced a number of NWNT development studies and land use reviews for a holistic planning and development of new development areas (NDAs). Such studies and reviews include the Hung Shui Kiu New Development Area Planning and Engineering Study, Land Use Review for Kam Tin South and Pat Heung, and Planning and Engineering Study for Housing Sites in Yuen Long South - Investigation. It is expected that some of the housing units of the mentioned residential sites will be completed in the next decade. The preliminary recommendations of the studies and reviews mentioned above are at Annex 2.

(2) and (3) As stated in our paper submitted to the Subcommittee on Matters Relating to Railways of the Legislative Council Panel on Transport in February this year, the loading of the busiest section of the WRL (i.e. Kam Sheung Road Station to Tsuen Wan West Station) in 2013 is 71% under the original design and safety standard of 6 persons (standing) per square metre (ppsm) calculation and 99%, if it is calculated in terms of a more comfortable riding experience using 4 ppsm.

     As short-term measures to address public dissatisfaction with the crowdedness inside trains of WRL, the MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL) has enhanced platform management for a more even distribution of passengers on platforms and on trains for smoother circulation of passengers and higher efficiency of train operation. In addition, the MTRCL has been operating eight extra train services from 7.30pm to 12am on Fridays and Saturdays, enhancing the service frequency to 5 minutes per trip starting from end-August this year. The MTRCL has also kept a close watch over the service level of and passenger demand for the WRL, and will adjust service arrangements as necessary, so as to tie in with the transport demand of the commuting public.  

     On medium-term measures, the construction of Shatin-Central Line (SCL) provides a good opportunity for service enhancement.  Through building new tracks, the SCL will link up the Ma On Shan Line with WRL, routing through Tai Wai and Hung Hum to reach Tuen Mun, forming the East West Corridor (EWC). As planned, the number of train compartments will be gradually increased from the current seven to eight starting from late 2016. By then, the overall carrying capacity of the WRL will be increased by at least 14%. The consultant has estimated that, the loading of the busiest section of the EWC (from Ma On Shan to Tuen Mun via Hung Hom) in 2031 will be 64% under 6 ppsm and 90% under 4 ppsm. At that time, the crowdedness of WRL should have been relieved.

     However, the consultant has estimated in the Railway Development Strategy 2014 that, upon the completion of the Northern Link, Hung Shui Kiu Station and Tuen Mun South Station Extension, the loading of the EWC along its busiest section will be increased.

     In the long run, the WRL will reach its maximum capacity one day and therefore, we need to plan early. The Government shall monitor the increase in transport demand of the WRL and to further look into the possibility of improving the service frequency of WRL.

     When taking forward new development areas or major projects, the Government will consider the economic benefits in the related transport planning if it generates a large amount of traffic demand. When implementing individual projects, the responsible department will, in response to the findings in the traffic impact assessment reports submitted at various planning and design stages of the project, formulate and implement improvement and mitigation measures in a timely manner to meet the transport demand and development needs.

     Taking into account the future new development plans for North West and North New Territories as well as Lantau, we will examine the feasibility and the desirability of new transport infrastructures (including railways and roads) or upgrading/improvement works to the existing ones for meeting the additional transport demand. Throughout the process, we shall make reference to the latest planning parameters, look into the actual traffic condition and listen to the views of local residents and experts.

     While it is the Government's policy to use railways as the backbone of our passenger transport system, we also strive to build a diversified public transport system under which complementarity of various public transport modes could be enhanced so that the public will be provided with different choices. We will closely observe the development of NWNT and the trend of its transport demand, watch over the utilisation of the WRL and various bus and minibus routes, implement road improvement works and traffic management measure under individual circumstances, and tie in with the operation of the railway network and other public transport services, with a view to relieving the pressure on the WRL and meeting the overall transport demand of NWNT.  

Ends/Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Issued at HKT 16:10