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Northern link – the project that will bring connection
Railway projects are big projects and the funding of these projects is a matter of concern. The Northern link project is one of the most major projects that have ever been conducted and MTR is working with the best team for that.
We have been designing and building railway projects for a long time and now, we have the most experienced team and trustworthy suppliers with us to execute the whole planning of the Northern link project perfectly.
Railway projects always have two development approaches. One is the concession approach in which railway construction is funded by the government. The government has to fund those projects under the public work program and in that case, the railway company will have to operate the new railway through a service concession.
Another one is the ownership approach where the railway company will be responsible for the complete process. This also includes financing. It means railway companies have to finance the project on their own. They also have to handle the designs, construction operations, and maintenance of the new railway. Moreover, the railway company has to take care of all the commercial risks associated with that design or construction. If unfortunately, the structure or features of that railway is questioned in the court, only the railway company will be answerable.
Now, if we talk about the funding of Northern link, let us tell you that based on the ownership approach for funding the project, currently, a discussion is undergoing between the MTR corporation and the government for the financing arrangement to meet the finance gap.
Challenges of the project
Planning a railway line is no child's play and it includes designing, planning, environmental assessments, etc. Besides that, the funds are also needed to face and overcome the challenges unique to each project. For example, for expanding the east rail line, the team has to build the Kwu Tung. Besides that, technical challenges, engineering challenges, and even environmental challenges are also matters of concern. As, in any situation, we cannot compromise the quality, funding is an unavoidable point.
Why the Northern link?
It is not only connecting the East and West of the new territories but also it is opening the doors of endless opportunities for denizens. With smooth transportation, the area will become well developed, and also leading companies will invest to build their outlets in those areas. It will eventually enhance the living standard for people living in those new territories. Moreover, people don't have to hustle to reach their destinations by using the road and getting stuck in the traffic as once it is done, they can seamlessly reach their destinations within a few minutes.
Why is Kwu Tung needed?
As the Northern link connects a vast geographical coverage expanded from Kwu Tung to Kam Sheung Road, it is going to be a big project, and not only that, this geographical coverage comes with high complexity and that's why the team has to consult various key stakeholders.
These processes already took time and now we want to give the denizens the connectivity as soon as possible. It will take less time to complete the construction of Kwu Tung Station on the East Rail Line as its tunnel structure is already completed and the station areas were reserved when the Lok Ma Chau Spur Line construction took place.
MTR corporation – working for the development of Hong Kong
The MTR Corporation, with the most proficient team, is working on the planning and design of the Northern link project. After completing the project, we will carry forward connecting the areas through railway transportation and will also completely support the government in the railway support strategies. We aim to contribute to the long-term advancement of Hong Kong with our skills team and expertise.
How will the project be funded?
Railway projects have two development approaches.
Under the "concession" approach, railway construction is funded by the Government under the Public Works Programme, and the railway company will operate the new railway through a service concession.
Under the "ownership" approach, the railway company will be responsible for the financing, design, construction, operation and maintenance of the new railway and ultimately owns the railway. The railway company would bear all the commercial risks associated with the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the new railway.
On the basis of the "ownership" approach for funding the project, the MTR Corporation is currently discussing with the Government the financing arrangement for the Northern Link to bridge the funding gap for a financially viable proposal.
Is it value for money?
The construction cost of a railway project includes planning, design, environmental assessment, construction works, etc. When estimating the project cost, we will also consider the expenditure incurred due to the complexity and challenges unique to the project.
Take the Northern Link project as an example. The construction challenges include building the new Kwu Tung Station on the current operating East Rail Line; as well as the need to balance various factors such as engineering challenges, environmental protection and project planning. Nevertheless, we will strictly supervise and monitor works quality, and control expenditure and costs to ensure resources are used prudently during project delivery.
The Northern Link enhances connectivity between the east and west of the New Territories and saves travel time for the public. It also promotes the unleashing of development opportunities for lands in San Tin, Ngau Tam Mei and Au Tau, increasing housing supply and creating employment. These all create significant direct and indirect economic benefits.
Why construct Kwu Tung Station first?
The Northern Link connects Kwu Tung and Kam Sheung Road, with three new intermediate stations at San Tin, Ngau Tam Mei and Au Tau. Due to the wider geographical coverage and higher complexity, coupled with the need to consult various key stakeholders, it will take longer to commence construction.
We understand the public expectations for the project. As per our study, the Kwu Tung Station on the East Rail Line has more mature conditions to commence construction sooner than the Northern Link. This is because a portion of its tunnel structure has already been constructed, and its station areas were reserved during the construction of the Lok Ma Chau Spur Line of the East Rail Line. In view of this, construction works for Kwu Tung Station on the East Rail Line will be commenced first to facilitate provision of railway service to residents as soon as possible.
Invited by the Government, the MTR Corporation is currently working on the planning and design of the Northern Link project.
We will closely follow the planning of future railway projects and provide our full support on the Government’s railway development strategy. We look forward to contributing to the long-term development of Hong Kong, leveraging our expertise in railway development and operations.