Exclusive: Competition for Hong Kong’s MTR? 3 firms expected to vie with city’s rail giant for cross-border link to Qianhai


“Of course, the MTR Corp is welcome to bid for the project, which will be granted to the best candidate.”

Hung Shui Kiu in northern Hong Kong’s Yuen Long. The rail link is expected to be a joint effort by the Hong Kong and Shenzhen authorities, with each bearing the cost of construction on their own side. Photo: Winson Wong
The project, known as the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Western Rail Link, will connect Hung Shui Kiu in Yuen Long with Qianhai, which Beijing plans to expand eightfold – from 14.9 sq km (3,706 acres) to 120.6 sq km – in the coming years.

Authorities have already started a second-stage study on the rail project’s engineering feasibility, construction, environmental impact, operation arrangements and benefits.

The rail link will also complement the development of the proposed Northern Metropolis, a massive innovation and technology hub the government has promised will create tens of thousands of new jobs and homes for about 2.5 million people.

The rail link is expected to be a joint effort by the Hong Kong and Shenzhen authorities, with each bearing the cost of construction on their own side.

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Henry Cheung Nin-sang, chairman of the Association of Hong Kong Railway Transport Professionals, said at least three companies were preparing to bid for the project beside the MTR Corp.

“At least three firms engaging in relevant business have expressed an interest in bidding for this project,” he said. “They are now working out the project’s preliminary planning about its construction and operation. They will jump into action once the tendering process kicks off.”

Cheung estimated the project would cost about HK$20 billion (US$2.55 billion) for the Hong Kong leg as the government would prefer to adopt a light rail system.

“I support the government to inject competition into rail service,” he said. “This will break the monopoly of the MTR Corp and compel it to improve its service and the delivery of projects.”

Legislator Gary Zhang Xinyu, a former MTR operations manager, suggested tendering construction of the project but then putting the rail giant in charge, including handling the signalling systems and maintenance.

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“The construction of the project could be open to competition while the MTR Corp could take charge of the project’s operation,” he said. “With its railway expertise, it is better for the rail firm to be responsible for its operation and maintenance. We should maximise the results by making the best use of the MTR Corp’s expertise.”

Lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun, former chairman of the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation, called for the construction of a station at Shenzhen Bay Port that could serve as a joint checkpoint for passengers.

“With the creation of a station at Shenzhen Bay Port, the project can be split into two parts, with Hong Kong only responsible for the section between Hung Shui Kiu and Shenzhen Pay Port,” he said. “Then the construction of the Hong Kong section could be open to a public tender. It won’t necessarily be put in the hands of the MTR Corp.”

Lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun attends a meeting at Legco of a panel on fare increase applications from franchised bus operators. Photo: Edmond So

“We will continue to make good use of our expertise and experience in railway construction and operations and support the government on future railway development in Hong Kong,” the MTR Corp said.

The corporation, listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange in 2000, is about 75 per cent owned by the government after it merged with the fully city-owned Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation in 2007.

The company has come under fire in recent years over project delays, cost overruns and several high-profile incidents, including train crashes, train derailments and two incidents involving doors falling off.


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