Lawmakers on the Legislative Council's transport panel yesterday approved a government request for an extra HK$8.8 billion for a road project linked to the Hong Kong- Zhuhai-Macau bridge.
The request will now be passed to the Legco Finance Committee's public works subcommittee for discussion on May 7.
Secretary for Transport and Housing Eva Cheng Yu-wah told the panel meeting the government needs the extra funding for the 12-kilometer Hong Kong Link Road as the delay caused by a judicial review against its environmental impact assessment has caused costs to escalate on top of higher-than- expected risk assessment costs.
She said HK$3.27 billion will go to the increase in the cost of construction materials while HK$3.44 billion will go to the risk assessment adjustment.
The increase in provision for price adjustment and for emergencies makes up HK$670 million and HK$1.48 billion respectively.
"The later the construction begins, the higher the construction cost will be," Cheng said. The extra funding will push the total cost of the dual-carriageway, three-lane road to HK$25 billion.
Cheng said the construction costs will continue to soar if the funding is not approved, though she could not put a figure on how much more money will be needed per month of delay. "One thing for sure is the economic loss per year of delay will be 2.2 billion yuan [HK$2.7 billion] for Hong Kong, Macau and Zhuhai," Cheng said.
Should the committee give the go-ahead, construction may begin in the middle of the year and be finished by the end of 2016.
But it could have been completed nine months earlier had the Tung Chung resident Chu Yee-wah, 65, not filed the judicial review.
The Civic Party, which assisted Chu in the review, came under fire at yesterday's meeting for adding HK$8.8 billion to the price tag of the project.
Lawmaker Wong Kwok-kin of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions claimed that if the money had been used instead to stabilize MTR fares, there would be no increases for about 50 years. If used to give free tram rides to the elderly and disabled, they could travel without charge for about 100 years.
Liberal Party chairwoman Miriam Lau Kin-yee also said the HK$8.8 billion could have been put to better use. "The public is shocked at having to pay HK$8.8 billion more," Lau said. "It is not justified that the taxpayers have to pay for this."
But Civic Party legislator Audrey Eu Yuet- mee denied it was the party that filed for the review. Party member Alan Leong Kah-kit, acting as an individual, merely helped file it.