'MTR needs HK$10bn urgently for Shatin-Central Link'
Transport Secretary Frank Chan has warned that if legislators don't approve an extra HK$10 billion for the MTR's troubled Shatin-Central Link by July, the entire project will grind to a halt.
At a meeting of Legco's public works subcommittee on Tuesday, Chan said he was confident that the MTR Corporation would not need to come back to ask for even more funds before it completes the project, in 2022.
But he did warn that the coronavirus crisis is creating some uncertainty.
"Due to the outbreak, the supply of materials and the resumption of work are subject to uncertainties. If the outbreak worsens, at this point we cannot make any guarantees," he said.
Chan said without the injection, the MTR is likely to run out of money for the project by October, and the consequences of not getting the new funds would be huge.
"Before the funds are exhausted, we must inform all contractors and stakeholders to prepare for a halt to the project and the consequences would be grave, including substantial delays and the costs would also go up substantially."
The MTR added that as many as 2,700 workers would lose their jobs if the money doesn't come through.
But lawmakers, including the Civic Party's Jeremy Tam, criticised the corporation and the government for failing to control the cost overruns, with the new HK$90 billion price tag making the Shatin-Central Link the city's most expensive rail project ever.
"If the government could do better planning and also the inspections and any groundwork, I believe some of those [cost overruns] could have been avoided," Tam said.
The DAB's Holden Chow questioned why the MTR couldn't foresee there would be changes in safety and technical requirements over the years. But the corporation's projects director, Roger Bayliss, said it was not that easy.
"It is difficult to forecast all of the changes that might happen over a 10-year period. And it's not just changes that we've introduced in terms of safety on the MTR, there have also been improvements and enhancements in the safety and environmental requirements for Hong Kong as a whole," Bayliss said.
The first phase of the new rail link, between Tai Wai and Kai Tak, opened last month. But after Hung Hom Station was engulfed in a construction scandal, the rest of the Kowloon section is not expected to open until late next year.
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