LCQ3: Railway projects related to the Northern Metropolis

     Following is a question by the Hon Lau Kwok-fan and a reply by the Secretary for Transport and Logistics, Mr Lam Sai-hung, in the Legislative Council today (May 10):
     The current-term Government has expressly stated that it adopts the "infrastructure‑led" and "capacity-creating" planning principles with a view to driving overall development through infrastructure. The Northern Link (NOL) is the main transport backbone of the Northern Metropolis, but NOL Phase 1 and 2 are expected to be completed in 2027 and 2034 respectively, which are later than the anticipated date for the first population intake of the new development areas (NDAs) in the area, and there are still no definite alignments and anticipated completion dates for the NOL Eastward Extension and the Spur Line. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it has plans to speed up the construction of NOL to truly implement the infrastructure-led principle, so that people moving into the NDAs can enjoy the convenience of railway infrastructure; if so, of the details; if not, whether it will examine afresh the existing construction timetable;
(2) whether it has completed the preliminary planning of the alignments of other railway projects related to the Northern Metropolis (i.e. the NOL Eastward Extension and the Spur Line, and the Central Rail Link), including station locations and interchange stations between different lines; if so, of the details; if they are under planning, of the expected completion time; and
(3) given that the first three buildings of the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park are expected to be completed one after another starting from the end of next year, and it is learnt that the residential units in the San Tin Technopole are also expected to be ready for intake in 2031, whether the authorities have considered giving priority to constructing some NOL stations with strategic value, such as San Tin Station, so as to tie in with the development of innovation and technology in the Northern Metropolis; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
     The consolidated reply in response to the question raised by the Hon Lau Kwok-fan is as follows:
     As mentioned by the Chief Executive in the 2022 Policy Address, the current-term Government will take forward the Northern Metropolis in full steam and will continue to adopt the "infrastructure-led" and "capacity-creating" planning principles in implementing transport infrastructure projects, with a view to unleashing the development potential of new development areas along the alignment of major transport infrastructure.

     With respect to the Northern Link (NOL) project, the completed NOL together with the existing East Rail Line and Tuen Ma Line will form a railway loop linking up the New Territories and Kowloon, which will not only improve the railway connection between the New Territories East and the New Territories West, serving the Kwu Tung North New Development Area (KTNNDA) and the San Tin Technopole, but also unleash the potential of land around Au Tau, Ngau Tam Mei and San Tin, driving the developments in these areas. Taking into account the development pace along the NOL, we will first commence the construction of Kwu Tung (KTU) Station on the Lok Ma Chau Spur Line of East Rail Line and then the construction of the main line connection rail progressively. The detailed design of KTU Station has been substantially completed. Construction works are expected to commence in mid-2023 for completion in 2027 to support the major new population intake of the KTNNDA.

     In view of the complexity of works and taking into account the time required for detailed planning and design, the construction works of the NOL Main Line project are anticipated to commence in 2025 for completion in 2034. The Government will continue to closely monitor the works progress for early commissioning and provision of service. Before the commissioning of the NOL, relevant departments will take into account the transport need of the population intake and coordinate with public transport operators for provision of sufficient public transport services.
     With the development of the Northern Metropolis and the redevelopment of the Huanggang Port, the NOL Main Line together with the NOL Spur Line will provide a direct railway connection between the Northern Metropolis and the new Huanggang Port and strengthen the connectivity between the Northern Metropolis and the Greater Bay Area (GBA). The proposed NOL Spur Line is about 5.8km in length and its alignment starts from the San Tin Station on the proposed NOL Main Line, passing through the San Tin Technopole and the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park in the Lok Ma Chau Loop, and connects to the new Huanggang Port in Shenzhen. The project will help strengthen the cross-boundary transport link as well as the connection between the Lok Ma Chau Loop and the urban area, and will provide another option for residents and tourists travelling to and from the GBA. We are actively following up on the relevant work with Mainland authorities and MTR Corporation Limited, with a view to reaching consensus with the Mainland authorities on the implementation arrangement of the Shenzhen section of the NOL Spur Line and commencing detailed planning and design of the project in 2024. At the same time, we will continue to consider and review different implementation proposals of the project with a view to better supporting the local development need.

     In the longer term, the Government is conducting the "Strategic Studies on Railways and Major Roads beyond 2030" (RMR2030+) to explore the layout of railway and major road infrastructure so as to ensure that the planning of strategic railway and major road infrastructure can drive development or even reserve capacity for the long-term development needs of Hong Kong. The Government targets to alleviate the traffic bottlenecks by improving the transport network to provide more transport options and shorten commuting time for the public, and strives to meet the transport and logistics demand arising from the long-term developments and cross-boundary integration in a forward-looking manner. The RMR2030+ preliminarily recommends taking forward three strategic railways and three major roads (three railways and three major roads), amongst which Hong Kong-Shenzhen Western Rail Link (Hung Shui Kiu-Qianhai) and Central Rail Link are railway projects proposed for supporting the development of the Northern Metropolis. The public consultation exercise on the RMR2030+ was completed in end March 2023. We are carefully considering the views received during the public consultation period, including those on infrastructure alignments, and conducting preliminary engineering technical assessments with a view to enhancing the recommended schemes and formulating the Major Transport Infrastructure Development Blueprint for Hong Kong in fourth quarter of 2023.

     As regards the preliminary conceptual alignment of the NOL Eastward Extension proposed under the Northern Metropolis Development Strategy, the Civil Engineering and Development Department and the Planning Department are conducting the "Remaining Phase Development of the New Territories North-Planning and Engineering Study for New Territories North New Town and Man Kam To". We are closely working with the planning and engineering study team to formulate the major transport infrastructure required based on the conceptual land use planning, with a view to ascertaining the proposed transport infrastructure alignment in tandem with land use planning. Moreover, we are exploring a railway alignment which would link the major development nodes of the Lo Wu/Man Kam To Comprehensive Development Node and the New Territories North New Town as well as connect to the East Rail Line and the NOL so as to facilitate passengers travelling between the Northern Metropolis and the urban areas via the NOL, Central Rail Link and East Rail Line. As the planning and engineering study is still on-going, we need to review and refine the related railway scheme based on the proposed land use planning with a view to providing the most suitable, convenient, and accessible railway services. We will announce the planning details of the railway line concerned in due course.
     In summary, based on the latest planning of the new development areas, the Government will holistically review and implement the various transport infrastructure projects in a progressive manner to meet the transport demand arising from the long-term developments of the Northern Metropolis.

     Thank you President.

Ends/Wednesday, May 10, 2023
Issued at HKT 14:13