As Hong Kongeses’ pace of living gets faster, their demand for a more extensive railway system becomes higher. But could a railway development plan work as an acetadote forever?
On 17th September, the Transport and Housing Bureau has published a development plan for MTR’s further expansion up to 2031.
Commenting on the MTR development plan, Dr. Glenn Frommer,a former sustainable development manager of the MTR, feels ‘positive’ for both MTR corporation and Hong Kong.
Mr. Choy Chak Hung,a Kwun Tong District Councillor, expresses his concern on the government’s decision on the railway development strategy.
‘As a District Councillor, I welcome the government’s decision for all of a sudden, but I am surprised by its decision because it vetoed the East Kowloon railway expansion plan in 2012, ’says the councillor.
Seven proposed projects are mentioned in the plan, including Northern Link and Kwu Tung Station, Tuen Mun South Extension, East Kowloon Line, Tung Chung West Extension, Hung Shui Kiu Station, South Island Line (West) and North Island Line.
As Mr. Choy explains, the expansion plan aims at ‘distributing passengers from Kwun Tong station to Diamond Hill station.’
Hong Kong’s railway network carries over 4.5 million passengers per day, constituting around 40% of all public transport passenger trips.
‘Basically, people need to take 45 minutes from Po Tat Estate to Kwun Tong Station in working days,’ says Ivy Yiu, a student living in Po Tat Estate for 10 years.
However,being an opinion leader of Shun On Estate, Mr. Choy questions the effectiveness of the plan towards current transportation problems in Northern Kwun Tong.
‘Even though the expansion has done, more shuttle bus stations should be built in order to carry the passengers from Anderson Road in the future,’ he asks,’ could expansion really solve the problem?’
Mr. Choy also doubts the feasibility of East Kowloon Line expansion plan. ‘If Shun Tin Station is located, it will be built about 100 metres under Ning Po No.2 College,’ he says,’the maximum height of escalator is 50m above the ground, and this is just a preliminary estimation.’
East Kowloon Line is the most expensive project among 7 proposed railways—HK$27.5 billion are spent to connect Kwun Tong Line’s Diamond Hill and Tseung Kwan O Line’s Po Lam, serving high population density areas such as Choi Wan, Shun Tin, Sau Mau Ping and Po Tat.
Yiu worries MTR’s construction would disrupt road traffic near Po Tat Estate as if the development project of Anderson Road Quarry has been blocking part of Sau Mao Ping Road for years, yet she expects the government might use ‘excuses’ to fail the expansion plan.
Meanwhile, Dr. Frommer believes redundant bus stations should be removed due to the advancement of MTR’s expansion of railways, but he insists ‘there is no change for transport policies’ as ‘mass transportation shall be undertaken by the law regulating our railways.’
While Yiu did not know any public consultation on the development plan by the MTR, she heard of a public forum concerning the railway plan held by The Democratic Alliance for Betterment and Progress(DAB) party.
Dr. Frommer praises the public consultation held by MTR as ‘very extensive’. ‘MTR, as a responsible corporation, will consider a balanced approach. Public consultation will look into rate of removal of spoil, driving the trucks in, air quality and light,’ says the former manager.
In response to frequent train delays of MTR, Dr. Frommer defenses by saying the MTR in Hong Kong is a ‘world class system’ and its service is excellent. ‘New system will be benefited by upcycling the existing system,’ says Dr.Frommer.
On the other hand, the councillor holds the opposite view. ‘Unlike buses and minibuses, when one MTR station is delayed, the whole railway line will be affected,’says Mr. Choy.
The Railway Development Strategy 2014 report states that estimated population in Anderson Road would be around 48, 300 by 2017/18, and by 2026, the population is expected to increase by 73,000, adding to Northern Kwun Tong’s current population of about 300,000.
Yiu demands a 5-minute interval for each train if there is a Po Tat Station in the future. The frequencies of trains in Kwun Tong Line are 126 and 144 seconds in the morning peak and evening peak respectively.
Although Mr. Choy hopes that the expansion plan could alleviate traffic congestion in Northern Kwun Tong, he criticizes the government has been relying too much on MTR and rearranging lots of bus routes, therefore once MTR delay occurs, people will be panic to find another way out.
Dr. Frommer reiterates, referring to the government’s railway development plan, that there is ‘no final plan’ for the expansion. ‘If you look into the government’s report,the updates of their study, you will see the development of system reflects changes of demography in Hong Kong. ’
The District Councillor states that there is ‘no real solution’ when he is asked whether the above dilemma can be solved, since ‘citizens tend to live in urban areas rather than rural areas in Hong Kong.’