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Transcript of remarks by STH on Express Rail Link project

     Following is the transcript of remarks by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, on the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link project after attending a radio programme today (February 6):

Reporter: Secretary, a lot of lawmakers are concerned about the co-location arrangement of the CIQ (customs, immigration and quarantine) facilities. Do you think if you drop this, you will get this funding approval quickly? And if you are not going to drop it, when do you expect you can submit a proposal on what the plan is for the CIQ facilities? Do you have a timeline or timeframe when you can get the proposal to the public?

Secretary for Transport and Housing: Well, let me put it this way. Whichever CIQ arrangements we adopt, the merit, the economic benefits of an Express Rail is still there. But, of course, if we could achieve co-location of CIQ facilities in Hong Kong, that would enhance such benefits, that would also ensure that the Hong Kong station, meaning the West Kowloon Terminus will be a hub station of the national rapid rail network. That's why we have been striving our best to work out an arrangement which can provide maximum CIQ clearance convenience to travellers and at the same time be in full conformity with the Basic Law provisions and the spirit and principle of "one country, two systems".

     Judging by the progress, we are confident that we will be able to come up with such an arrangement. But of course we haven't yet had the opportunity to put forward the proposal because we have yet to work out the details. But once the proposal is ready, we will present it in full details to the community. The community can discuss it, and of course whichever a proposal we will put forward needs the support of the community and the clearance by the legislature.

Reporter: When do you expect to put forward such proposal? Do you have any timeframe?

Secretary for Transport and Housing: We are trying our best to speed up the process. But in any case, we don't think we will be able to do that within the coming couple of months. Meanwhile, the need for additional funding for the Express Rail project is very imminent and that's why I have been persuading LegCo (Legislative Council) members that let's consider the additional funding first, we don't want to face the scenario of suspension of works or termination of contracts because the consequences will be very serious.

Reporter: So don't you think you will get more support from the lawmakers if you drop the co-location arrangements?

Secretary for Transport and Housing: We are not going to drop the co-location arrangements but of course there are skeptics, there are people in the community who are very concerned about what the co-location arrangements would mean. We take that concern seriously too, so eventually we have to put forward a proposal which we hope can drive away some of the worries and concerns from those critics.

Reporter: What is the worst case scenario for Hong Kong if the project is indeed suspended?

Secretary for Transport and Housing: Once the project is suspended, even on temporary basis, that would mean immediately over 5 800 workers in various work sites will be affected. And eventually if the works contracts are terminated, we are talking about close to 8 000 personnel, including workers, would be affected. And of course once suspension is triggered, then even if we are going to pick up the project again, that would mean extra time - we are talking about a few years in order to complete the project. That would mean very serious consequences for Hong Kong. We will be lagging behind further and that is not something I think the community wants to see.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)

Ends/Saturday, February 6, 2016
Issued at HKT 12:32


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