Hong Kong Government Seeks Solution to High-Speed Rail Problems

Hong Kong’s Express Rail Link project carries a total price tag of HK$71.52 billion (£5.71 billion), and is intended to deliver a significant improvement to public transport in the region. Unfortunately, the project has also been plagued by problems and suffered significant delays. The Hong Kong government is now seeking a complete and practical solution to these issues, and is putting pressure on MTR Corporation to come up with one.
The problems facing the project were first seriously highlighted in August, when the government launched an investigation into spiralling cost estimates. The original price tag for the project was supposed to be just HK$65 billion (£5 billion), yet this was revised upwards by roughly 10%. This announcement, in turn, came shortly after the announcement that final delivery of the project was to be delayed by over a year.
The call also follows the recent publication of a report looking into the problems that the project has suffered. The report was the second of its kind, and was carried out by MTR Corporation’s independent committee, a committee specifically set up to review the delays that have affected the high-speed rail project. The report examines the management of the project and makes a number of recommendations, taking the opinions of two independent experts who have looked at the project into account. In response to the report, a government statement noted that MTR Corporation and the independent experts disagreed on their estimates of costs and revised schedules for construction.
A revised schedule for construction was submitted to the government by MTR Corporation in preliminary form back in May. This schedule predicted completion of the project before the arrival of November 2017. In the opinion of the Hong Kong Highways Department, it should still be possible to reach this schedule. However, this relies on the successful delivery of major targets and conditions associated with important contracts.
As well as seeking a solution for the issues that the project has suffered from in terms of delays and rising costs, the government also hopes for an examination of risks. Specifically, it hopes for a solution that will lead to better risk management in the project’s execution.
The current estimated cost for the project of HK£71.52 is a complete quote for the project and includes costs associated with project management. However, there are still concerns surrounding the fact it is significantly higher than the original estimate, delivered in 2010. The Highways Department is seeking further information in order for it to assess costs and the reasons behind the increase. After the Highways Department has carried out its review, its findings will be reported to the government’s Legislative Council as well as to the public.
The government has stressed its intention to continue acting in a way that conforms with the original agreement for approved overruns on the project and for cost responsibilities.