Tuen Ma Line rolling to an early finishTop News | Michael Shum 27 May 2021
The MTR's Tuen Ma Line is expected to launch in full ahead of schedule by the end of next month, but the Sha Tin to Central Rail Link's cross-harbor section is unlikely to meet its target date next year, says lawmaker Ben Chan Han-pan.
The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong's Chan, chair of the Legislative Council's railway subcommittee, said he expects the Tuen Ma Line to launch on June 26 or June 27, pending government confirmation, while the cross-harbor link could be delayed till the end of next year or early 2023. The original target was the first quarter of next year.
Before an annual general meeting yesterday, MTR Corp chairman Rex Auyeung Pak-kuen said the Tuen Ma Line trials have gone smoothly and its full launch is awaiting government approval.
Auyeung said he hopes it can fully commence as soon as possible.
Sources said the MTRC expects the full Tuen Ma Line to launch in the last week of next month and that the rail giant is already organizing and preparing for activities for early next month.
That would mean the full Tuen Ma Line will be launched months ahead of its forecast schedule of the third quarter this year.
Upon completion, the Tuen Ma Line would be the longest railway line in Hong Kong, spanning 56 kilometers with 27 stations by connecting the Wu Kai Sha station on the Ma On Shan Line to the Tuen Mun station on the West Rail Line at Hung Hom station.
MTRC chief executive Jacob Kam Chak-pui also confirmed that it remains challenging for the cross-harbor section of the Sha Tin to Central Rail Link to meet its opening target.
The delay is due to three crucial steps that the rail operator has yet to finish before the line could start operation, including the change of rails, use of new trains and a new signaling system.
"As these crucial works have been delayed, the whole project would have to be delayed," Kam said. "We are working very hard to catch up as much as we can, but I believe it is quite hard for us to open it in the first quarter next year as scheduled."
Chan told The Standard: "The full Tuen Ma Line has already gone through four months of trials - it usually takes three months only - and everything is going smoothly.
"I expect the line to be launched before July 1.
"Given that they usually launch a new line on a holiday, there is a great chance for them to launch the full Tuen Ma Line on June 26 or 27."
Chan also said he hopes the rail operator could take this opportunity to adjust its "unreasonable" fares on the East and West rail lines.
The MTR combined the 21 stations on the Ma On Shan Line and the West Rail Line plus six new stations to form the Tuen Ma Line. Construction of the six were divided into two phases. The first includes Hin Keng, Diamond Hill and Kai Tak, which have been operational since February 14 this year. The second comprises Sung Wong Toi, To Kwa Wan and Ho Man Tin.
On the cross-harbor section of the Sha Tin to Central Rail Link, Chan expects it to be opened at the end of next year at the earliest.
"I hope the MTR Corp will make use of its sufficient manpower after its other projects have been completed to focus on the Sha Tin to Central Rail Link," Chan said. "We have waited for so long and it has been delayed for so long. I hope MTR Corp can do us proud this time."
Roundtable lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun said the commissioning of the Tuen Ma Line earlier than scheduled is a positive message, adding it will bring convenience to people commuting between New Territories East and West, as well as those living in Kai Tak and To Kwa Wan.
The scandal involving subpar construction work hit the link project in 2018, when steel bars at the Hung Hom station expansion were found to have been cut short, instead of being correctly screwed into couplers.