The HK$7-billion MTR Corporation (0066) South Island Line may include a stop at the Happy Valley racecourse for the convenience of punters, a senior government official said yesterday.
The additional stop, which will cost HK$1.3 billion, will be funded by the Hong Kong Jockey Club and should not cause any delay to the construction of the seven-kilometer line, Secretary for Transport and Housing Eva Cheng Yu- wah said. Construction is set to begin in 2011 with completion targeted for 2015.
If the new stop is approved, it will take South Horizons residents only 2 minutes to get to the racecourse.
The stop will be in addition to those already proposed at Admiralty, Ocean Park, Wong Chuk Hang, Lei Tung and South Horizons.
The racetrack stop was not on the original plan, but was considered after the club suggested it would greatly ease raceday traffic.
The MTRC is expected to reach an agreement with the Jockey Club in six months regarding the proposed station.
In a statement, the club said a stop at the racecourse, in addition to those at Ocean Park and the Aberdeen waterfront, would help boost tourist traffic.
However, it said it would have to carefully consider the proposal.
The Executive Council on Tuesday gave the MTRC the green light to proceed with the preliminary design of the South Island Line.
MTR chief executive Chow Chung- kong said it is not clear yet if the additional racecourse station would only be used on race days or will operate throughout the year.
A previously-proposed Happy Valley station was dropped from the plan due to geological issues and opposition from residents in the area.
A stop at Wan Chai was also cast aside due to inconvenience in transferring to other lines.
According to projections, the medium capacity railway is expected to carry a daily load of 170,000 passengers by 2020. Chow said it will relieve traffic congestion in the Southern District and alleviate jams at Aberdeen Tunnel, Causeway Bay and the Cross Harbour Tunnel.
When completed, Ocean Park will be merely four minutes away from Admiralty and 10 minutes from Tsim Sha Tsui, trips which currently take 25 to 45 minutes by bus.
The speedy ride may also boost redevelopment in Island South, attracting tourists to the district where attractions such as a Fisherman's Wharf have been proposed.
"The link will inject a new economic drive into Southern district," Cheng said.
The railway extension topped the list of 10 major infrastructure projects set out in the chief executive's policy address in October. The transport bureau has said the plan will not be financially viable and would require the "rail plus property" model used by the MTRC to bridge the funding gap. Cheng would not comment on the funding deficit yesterday, but said estimates could only be drawn up after the preliminary design is complete.