Hong Kong transport infrastructure blueprint heralds a ‘new engine’ for region

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A new strategic blueprint aims to promote the sustainable development of Hong Kong and meet its transport and logistics needs up to 2046, writes Hinson Cheung of Pinsent Masons.

Hong Kong SAR’s Transport and Logistics Bureau’s recently published Major Transport Infrastructure Development Blueprint aims to promote Hong Kong’s infrastructure and reinforce the city’s strategic position.

The principles underlying the blueprint include bringing forward infrastructure construction and increasing development capacity in a bid to promote sustainable development of Hong Kong and to meet its transport and logistics needs up to 2046. The blueprint sets out a major initiative to improve three railways and three major roads as well as the addition of two railways and one major road in the eastern developments of the northern, metropolis to meet updated transport requirements.

To carry out these aims, the city administration will need to think strategically, planning out the resources needed to meet the increased demand. To do so, the proposals should be implemented via tertiary education, by increasing resources on construction-related subjects and degrees and increasing training for safety related professionals. Enhancing communication with the places supplying the materials, such as landfilled materials, is also an import part of implementing the plans, as well as ensuring adequate support for completion of the planned projects.

The development proposals are expected to provide more homes and jobs for millions of people. Plans for 500,000 new residential units and 500,000 new jobs are included in the blueprint in a bid to accommodate 2.5 million people once fully developed, in a move that shows eagerness to embrace an industry-driven and infrastructure led approach to planning, with the metropolis set to forge a major hub for the city to integrate into the overall development of the country.

The goal is to establish in Hong Kong a new industry pattern of south-north dual engine (finance-innovation and technology), with integrated development with Shenzhen and connection with other areas within China’s Greater Bay Area.

Enhancement to three railways and three major roads

The three strategic railway proposals are: –

  • Hong Kong-Shenzhen Western Rail Link (Hung Shui Kiu-Qianhai) – this rail link will be 18km long in total, with the Hong Kong section itself being 8km long. The blueprint suggests that the line start near the existing Hung Shui Kiu station on the Tuen Ma Line and pass through the newly proposed Ha Tsuen and Lau Fau Shan stations, with the line then entering Qianhai via Shenzhen Bay.
  • Central Rail Link – this rail link will be 17km long allowing for travel between Kowloon Tong and Kam Tin, with three intermediate stations at Northeast Tsuen Wan, Northeast Kwai Chung, and Tsuen King Circuit for transit to the Tsuen Wan Line.
  • Tseung Kwan O Line Southern Extension – under the blueprint, the Tsuen Kwan O Line will be extended southbound from LOHAS Park station, to minimise land area required.

The three major road proposals are: –

  • Northern Metropolis Highway (Tin Shui Wai-Kwu Tung Section) – this highway will consist of four sections: the Tin Shui Wai Section, San Tin Section, Kwu Tung Section and the New Territories North New Town Section, from west to east in the northern side of Hong Kong.
  • Shatin Bypass – this bypass is approximately 15 km long and will serve as a direct north-south corridor, connecting the northeast New Territories with the urban areas of Kowloon.
  • Tseung Kwan O-Yau Tong Tunnel – this 3.5 km long tunnel will connect Tseung Kwan O Area 137, which is one of the major sources of land supply for Hong Kong’s long-term development, to Kowloon east and provide an alternative commuting option for residents in the area.

Two railways and one major road in the eastern developments of the Northern Metropolis
Plans to further develop the Northern Metropolis to the east – namely the Northern Link Eastern extension, Northeast New Territories Line and Northern Metropolis Highway (New Territories North New Town Section) – are set out within the blueprint.

These plans will enhance connectivity between existing new towns – such as those in Fanling/Sheung Shui – as well as improving transport links for new development areas under construction, proving these emerging areas with both rail and road links. The developments will also form the “boundary commerce and industry zone” as a business district, creating an ideal base for emerging industries.

Costs, concerns and considerations

In terms of cost, transport minister Lam Sai Hung said it was too early to put a price on the proposed new infrastructure as construction is not likely to commence for ten years. It means that there are cost variables that cannot yet be properly considered.

Land reclamation is another area of potential concern given the scarcity of land in Hong Kong. However, the blueprint addresses a number of areas of public concern. For example, the Tseung Kwan O Southern Extension line would use a ‘cut and cover’ method using machines to construct the underseas section of the railway extension to minimise the land area required for the railway facilities. The area of reclaimed land will then be used to provide open space, under government recommendations.

Implementing these large-scale infrastructure projects is also likely to have a significant impact on the local area and the environment. In this regard, the blueprint contains several environmental assessments, with particular attention given to public and community views.

For example, the blueprint recommends the introduction of smart and green mass transit systems to serve as a sustainable feeder service to nearby railways and major public transport interchanges in areas with limited space or lower transport demand. These are lightweight and convenient and carry fewer passengers – capable of serving approximately 10,000 passenger trips per hour in a single direction. They also do not require the installation of overhead lines, and their electrical and mechanical supporting systems are relatively simple as well as being more cost-effective, according to the plan.

The blueprint also sets out considerations on green buses, modern tracks, tracked and trackless trains, and tracked buses in a bid to lower emissions. This will involve various factors at play, including the demand for public transport in specific districts, the capacity, sustainability, construction and operational cost-effectiveness of the systems, etc. The government will need to balance the impacts on stakeholders and the environment, with a view to suitably and effectively utilising public resources to meet the transport demand arising from local developments.

Hinson Cheung is a partner at the multinational law firm Pinsent Masons. This article was co-written by Bernice Shang and Jason Wong of Pinsent Masons.