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LCQ14: Proposed East Kowloon Line
     Following is a question by the Hon Starry Lee and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Logistics, Mr Lam Sai-hung, in the Legislative Council today (November 2):


     In the Railway Development Strategy 2014 (RDS-2014), the Government put forward the construction of the East Kowloon Line (EKL) to connect the Diamond Hill Station of the MTR Kwun Tong Line and the Po Lam Station of the MTR Tseung Kwan O Line via Choi Wan, Shun Tin, Sau Mau Ping and Po Tat. It is learnt that after the release of RDS-2014, the communities concerned have strongly requested the authorities to introduce a Wong Tai Sin Extension to connect the Kowloon Tong Station of the MTR Kwun Tong Line and the Choi Wan Station of EKL (via Chuk Yuen and Tsz Wan Shan), and to combine the development of EKL with that of the monorail at Kai Tak, so as to relieve the road traffic flow which has already reached saturation in those areas. However, it has been reported that after study, the authorities will develop EKL as an "elevated trackless rapid transit system" instead of a heavy railway system, and it will switch to running through areas from Choi Hung to Sau Mau Ping only. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the latest progress of the planning work for EKL and its construction schedule;

(2) whether it has assessed if developing EKL as an elevated trackless rapid transit system will be able to cope with the growing traffic demand in the areas along EKL and the adjacent areas (including Tsz Wan Shan and Chuk Yuen), and improve the increasingly congested road traffic in those areas; if so, of the details;

(3) as it was mentioned in RDS-2014 that "[EKL] can enhance the overall network robustness by offering an alternative railway route for trips between the Tseung Kwan O area and Kowloon … and by serving as a parallel line to the existing Kwun Tong Line", whether it has assessed how EKL can achieve such a goal if it is not connected to Diamond Hill and Tseung Kwan O; and

(4) as the new alignment proposal has aroused loud opposition in the communities concerned, whether the authorities will undertake to (i) develop the alignment of EKL according to the proposal put forward in RDS-2014, (ii) introduce the Wong Tai Sin Extension to provide additional stations at Tsz Wan Shan, Chuk Yuen and the adjacent densely populated areas, and (iii) combine the development of EKL with that of the monorail at Kai Tak; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     Given the hilly topography along the proposed East Kowloon Line (EKL) under the Railway Development Strategy 2014 and the limited climbing capability of the heavy rail system, some railway sections under the original scheme will need to run deep underground. Having holistically reviewed the project in terms of railway alignment, gradient, location of stations, construction constraints, etc., we expect the project will encounter significant technical difficulties, including constructing deep underground stations, railway tunnels and very long adits for connection to the ground level on hilly terrain in the uphill areas, etc. In addition, due to deep underground stations, the public will take longer time to travel between the ground level and the station platforms, thus increasing the journey time of the public. Hence, the implementation of underground heavy rail system will not be an effective option for EKL.

     The reply to the question raised by the Hon Starry Lee is as follows:

(1) and (2) The Government is very concerned about the transportation demands in Kowloon East, especially the commuting need of the residents living in the uphill areas of Kwun Tong. After a detailed study, we are now exploring an elevated trackless rapid transit system from Po Tat via Sau Mau Ping, Shun On, Shun Lee and Choi Wan connecting with MTR Choi Hung Station as an alternative. The proposed elevated trackless rapid transit system will serve the densely populated areas in the aforesaid areas and the nearby housing developments near Anderson Road and at Anderson Road Quarry Site. The trackless rapid transit system being explored will operate on a dedicated elevated corridor which will be completely separated from the pedestrian and vehicular traffic. The rapid transit system will not be affected by busy traffic at Clear Water Bay Road, New Clear Water Bay Road and Choi Hung Interchange, providing fast, environmentally friendly and low carbon transportation services. We are now studying the requirements of constructing and operating the elevated trackless rapid transit system in uphill areas with significant level differences as well as evaluating different rapid transit systems available in the market, including the latest technologies in the Mainland and overseas. Upon completion of the technical feasibility study in the first half of 2023, we will promulgate the way forward of the project, including the preliminary timetable and implementation arrangement.

     At present, the traffic condition in Tsz Wan Shan and Chuk Yuen is generally normal. The volume/capacity ratios of major roads in the areas, such as Po Kong Village Road, Hammer Hill Road, Tsz Wan Shan Road and Chuk Yuen Road, in the morning peaks are between 0.2 and 0.5, which means sufficient capacity to meet the vehicular traffic demand in the areas. Bus and green minibus services are available in Tsz Wan Shan and Chuk Yuen for taking local residents to and from nearby railway stations (including Wong Tai Sin Station, Diamond Hill Station and Lok Fu Station) and the current public transport services can generally meet the demand of the passenger. The Transport Department will continue closely monitoring the traffic situation and demand for public transport services in the areas. On the other hand, the MTR Corporation Limited completed additional pedestrian connection facilities in Tsz Wan Shan area as entrusted by the Government in 2017 connecting with existing footbridges and lifts within the area. These facilities have provided barrier-free accesses for local residents and improved the walking environment between Tsz Wan Shan and Diamond Hill Station to facilitate the public using the railway services.

(3) Tuen Ma Line full line and East Rail Line cross-harbour extension were put in service in June 2021 and May 2022 respectively. They have provided the public with new commuting options and faster and more convenient railway service, and also brought significant diversion effect on other railway lines. According to our observations, the existing patronage for the critical link of Kwun Tong Line during morning peaks has reduced by about 10 per cent, which has helped to relieve the congestion situation. On the other hand, the Strategic Studies on Railways and Major Roads beyond 2030 has reviewed the overall layout of the territory-wide railway and major road infrastructure and planning data as well as recommended three major road projects and three strategic railway projects. We plan to commence the consultation on the preliminary findings of the Strategic Studies on Railways and Major Roads beyond 2030 in the end of this year. 

(4) The alignment and station locations of the elevated trackless rapid transit system depend on a number of factors such as gradient, space for accommodating the elevated structures, construction methods, etc. If the rapid transit system is to be extended from Choi Hung to Tsz Wan Shan and Chuk Yuen areas, it will pass by many existing residential buildings and community facilities. The space of constructing the elevated corridor will be very limited and the project will encounter considerable technical problems. Regarding the extension of the rapid transit system to Kai Tak development areas, it is technically very difficult to pass over major roads such as Kwun Tong Road and Kwun Tong Bypass, etc. In addition, the extension of the trackless rapid transit system from Choi Hung to Tsz Wan Shan and Chuk Yuen or Kai Tak will lower the overall efficiency and benefits of the transit system and affect the convenience of passengers in commuting. Despite this, we will continue listening to the public views and continue exploring feasible schemes, taking into account the views received.

     In addition, the Government briefed the Panel on Development of the Legislative Council on the findings and recommendations of the Detailed Feasibility Study (DFS) for Environmentally Friendly Linkage System (EFLS) for Kowloon East in January 2021. The DFS reveals that on the basis of the increasingly comprehensive road and railway infrastructure facilities as well as convenient public transport services provision in the area, the implementation of a supplementary "multi-modal" EFLS in Kowloon East can meet the travelling need of people and connect with the neighbouring areas conveniently and shape Kai Tak Development into a green community. The Government is now proactively implementing various proposed initiatives.
Ends/Wednesday, November 2, 2022
Issued at HKT 11:30
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