LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 587/96-97
(These minutes have been seen by the Administration)
Ref : CB1/PS/8/95/1

LegCo Panel on Transport
Subcommittee on Western Corridor Railway

Minutes of the Meeting
on Thursday, 4 July 1996 at 8:30 a.m.
in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

    Hon Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee, OBE, JP (Chairman)
    Hon Mrs Selina CHOW, OBE, JP
    Hon Albert CHAN Wai-yip
    Hon LEE Wing-tat
    Hon Zachary WONG Wai-yin
    Hon CHAN Wing-chan
    Hon Albert HO Chun-yan
    Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
    Hon SIN Chung-kai
    Hon Lawrence YUM Sin-ling

Members attending:

    Hon Eric LI Ka-cheung, OBE, JP
    Dr Hon Samuel WONG Ping-wai, MBE, FEng, JP

Members absent :

    Hon Edward S T HO, OBE, JP
    Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung
    Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok
    Hon LEE Kai-ming
    Hon TSANG Kin-shing

Public officers attending :

Mr Gordon SIU, JP
Secretary for Transport
, Deputy Secretary for Transport
Mrs Jenny Wallis
Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport
Mr L N Parker
Government Engineer/Railway Development
Highways Department
Chief Engineer/Railway,
Highways Department
Mr George LAI
Chief Engineer/Territory Transport Planning
Transport Department

Attendance by invitation :

From Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation
Mr Kevin Hyde
Mr Ian McPherson
Director, West Rail

From A T Kearney (Hong Kong) Ltd
Mr Robert Tasiaux
Vice President, Great China

From MVA Asia (Transportation, Planning and Management Consultant)
Mr Martin Read
Regional Director

From Pacific Bechtel Corporation
Mr Malcolm Snody
Deputy Project Manager, Engineering & Construction

Clerk in attendance:

    Mrs Vivian KAM

Staff in attendance:

Mr Billy TAM
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)4

I Matters Arising from the Previous Meeting

The Chairman reported that responses to concerns raised by members provided by the Administration and the KCRC were tabled at the meeting. Concerning requests from the press for the provision of the full KCRC proposal, Mr Gordon SIU advised that reporters could contact the Transport Branch direct for perusing copies of the proposal.

II Presentation on Detailed Engineering Report

2. At the invitation of the Chairman, Mr Ian McPherson of the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation (KCRC) introduced the consultants responsible for the detailed engineering report of the Western Corridor Railway (WCR). With the aid of slides, Mr Malcolm Snody of Pacific Bechtel Corporation briefed members on the alignment, stations, systems and works carried out during the detailed feasibility study on the basis of presentation materials tabled at the meeting.

(Post-meeting note: The presentation material were circulated to absent members vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 1761/95-96.)

3. Mr McPherson emphasised that the WCR was an extensive and complicated engineering project, and the feasibility study had brought the project to a 5% design level. It was essential to move forward to the technical study programme as these would facilitate decisions on alignment and land requirements. He highlighted the fact that land acquisition could not begin until the alignment was determined and the land requirements defined. The studies would also provide assessments on costs and environmental impact and enable the Government to be fully informed in making its decision on the project.

III Discussion on Detailed Engineering Report


4. A member considered that KCRC’s proposal regarding alignment and engineering was fait accompli and asked about the Administration’s power and scope in negotiating with KCRC on these aspects in order to reap the best benefits economically. She enquired how information obtained from Phase II of the Railway Development Study (RDS) which costed $45 million could facilitate such negotiation, and about the work and the roles of the Project Steering Committee and the Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands.

5. In response, Mr SIU informed that the Administration already had a broad concept of the possible alignment prior to submission of the proposal by KCRC. It was however not possible to comment on the changes until the consultants engaged by the Administration had completed their studies. On the scope of negotiations with KCRC over the alignment and engineering proposals, Mr SIU advised that negotiations on all aspects would be possible. He assured members that the Administration’s independent consultants would critically examine KCRC’s assumptions, methodology and demand forecasts to ensure their reasonableness and acceptability. As regards the Project Steering Committee, Mr SIU advised that it provided the necessary guidance to KCRC on major policy and procedural issues relating to the WCR project. The Committee would also resolve disagreements that might arise between concerned parties over different aspects of the project.

6. A member enquired about the reason for having proposed elevated structures for the alignment segment between Yuen Long and Tuen Mun spanning over the Yuen Long Plain. He also sought information on the type of viaduct to be used and cost comparisons between viaduct, at-grade and other options. Mr Snody explained that flood avoidance and engineering considerations were the major considerations for the elevated structures but other factors were also involved. The current proposal represented the best option. The possibility of using alternative types of structures as well as the cost-effectiveness would however also be covered in the next stage of studies. He added that the costs would normally depend on the depth of the foundation but in general viaducts were more expensive than at-grade.

7. A member asked if it was absolutely necessary for the alignment near the Tsuen Wan Station to pass through the underground of Wah Kai Industrial Centre and Paul Y Industrial Building on Texaco Road and through the Riviera Gardens, or if other options could be considered. Mr McPherson informed that the choice of alignment had impact on buildings and nearby infrastructures. Mr Snody confirmed that other options had been considered in the feasibility study. As passage through the Riviera Gardens would cause disruption to traffic, the underground option was preferred. All related issues would be examined in the technical study. Mr C K MAK affirmed that the Railway Division of the Highways Department would undertake a comparative study of the options and would request KCRC to provide an overall assessment.

8. While warning that cut-and-cover works on Kwai Fuk Road would paralyze traffic in Ha Kwai Chung area and that the Kwai Tsing District Board had voiced strong objection to such a proposal, a member considered that the consultants had no regional experience and suggested that other options should be explored even though these might be more expensive. Mr Snody noted the member’s comments and confirmed that the case would be further considered. He acknowledged that solving traffic problems in the area was a challenging task. Mr McPherson added that a final decision had yet to be made and KCRC would definitely look into the issue carefully. A member asked for written response on whether the consultants had raised with the Administration the land requirement for the project, if the proposed alignment could pass through particular pieces of land from a practical point of view, and on the types of usage of land associated with the project including those for property development purpose.


9. Members sought clarification on whether the alignment suggested by KCRC followed largely that proposed in the RDS and also on whether the ultimate alignment would be similar to the one proposed by KCRC. Mr Paul LEUNG confirmed that the alignment proposed by KCRC broadly followed the RDS option. Further studies would however be required before the exact alignment could be finalized.

10. In response to a member on the reason for a substantial portion of WCR to overlap with the Light Rail Transit (LRT), Mr Martin Read of MVA Asia advised that the consultants had examined the WCR alignment critically but it would be difficult to reduce the rail further. He also pointed out that the LRT and the WCR were different systems: the former being a low capacity system and the latter a "heavy duty" one which would handle significant patronage in the areas served by LRT even during peak periods.

Interface with other transportation means

11. On the interface with other modes of transportation in Hong Kong and how WCR could become part of the integrated transportation system in the whole territorial network, Mr McPherson advised that further discussions and studies would be held with the Administration to ensure integration. Mr L N Parker added that as outlined in RDS, WCR was a long-term development and would in due course become an integral part of the transportation network in Hong Kong. In reply to the Chairman on how the concept outlined in RDS and the Second Comprehensive Transport Study (CTS2) could be realized through the design of the WCR, Mr George LAI said that CTS2 had also confirmed the need for WCR in the year 2001.

12. As regards the absence of a connecting transportation at the Mei Foo Interchange, Mr Read admitted that Mei Foo was not an ideal interchange for buses and taxis as the area was heavily built up. He observed that a wider choice of transportation modes were available in other stations. This view was shared by Mr MAK who added that environmental constraints also existed at the Mei Foo Interchange.

Geotechnical issues

13. A member asked if geotechnical studies had been conducted to examine the possibility of significant deviations from the proposal in the event of insurmountable problems. Mr Snody agreed that while the alignment might require minor adjustments on account of geotechnical reasons, no insurmountable problems were envisaged.

Assistance by the Administration’s consultants

14. Members asked how the Administration’s consultants could assist members in monitoring the WCR project. Mr SIU undertook to consider the issue and revert to the Subcommittee in due course.

Financial feasibility

15. A member expressed concern on whether a financial feasibility study would be conducted to ascertain the viability of WCR so that an early decision could be made on whether the project should proceed. He asked if the reserves would be sufficient to cover necessary expenses for overcoming insurmountable difficulties and whether a cap could be put on the WCR costs. He considered a need to check the cost-effectiveness in those areas which would affect the costs most. Mr SIU noted the member’s concerns and advised that the Administration would also have regard to the experience from the New Airport Project. Another member however disagreed with setting a cap on costs as she was worried that fixed price contracts would result in payments higher than was necessary. She held the view the WCR operator should present a convincing case for the funds requested with a reasonable level of reserves. Members also requested KCRC to advise if it was possible to provide a summary table over a period of say 15 years on the financial impact, in particular on the fares to be charged, with the internal rate of return at 0%.

IV Discussion on Transportation Planning

Passenger service

16. A member criticized the assumption made on the absence of future direct bus services from the New Territories to the urban areas. He was of the view that comparisons should be made against scenarios with the strongest competitions. Mr Read advised that there were no such services at the moment and bus operators would be less inclined to provide such services after WCR commenced operation. Direct railway transportation should be the preferred option for commuters taking into account the exchange time needed. Experience from the present East Rail market share indicated that 72% of passengers used rail while the remaining 28% used bus services along the Tai Po Tolo Highway. He emphasized that the consultants study showed that WCR would only be taking over 45% of the passengers in aggregate. However, as people became affluent and congestion built up, the market share could go up to 58%. On these basis, the consultants’ forecast on passenger forecast was not particularly optimistic.

17. The member remained of the view that the consultants had no regional experience and the forecast reflected only academic and theoretical knowledge. He believed that bus companies would in future maintain competitiveness by operating direct routes unless the proposals were rejected by the Administration. Mr SIU advised that the consultants did have a full understanding of the local situation, although they should have provided scenarios with competitive bus services. He agreed to provide such analyses assuming the availability of direct bus services via Route 3 and the Western Harbour Crossing.

Freight transport

18. A member considered a need for the consultants to re-assess the impact of the risk factors listed under the heading of "Ridership Sensitivity Analyses and Risk Factors" in paragraph 3.1.3 of Volume 2 of the proposal. In response, Mr Robert Tasiaux advised that this part of the report was handled by another consultant. He said that revenue from through-train service would only make up 5% of the total revenue, and the overall negative impact resulting from the three factors listed would be minimal. At the request of the Chairman, Mr Tasiaux agreed to give a breakdown of the negative impact arising from each of the three risk factors.

Market share

19. Casting doubt on the data provided in KCRC’s response to questions raised by members at the meeting on 28 June 1996, a member considered the figures unrealistic, in particular the one indicating that passengers had to walk 25.5 minutes to a bus terminus. He anticipated that bus companies would in future improve services and the time required to reach bus termini would be shortened. It was inappropriate to draw up computer model based on existing situations. Mr Read advised that journey time was dependent on the location of the bus terminal, and the computer model was calibrated to reflect actual situations. The Chairman reminded the Administration that members had asked for typical examples at the last meeting. Mr SIU agreed to provide examples with shortest walking distance to bus terminus for bus services via Route 3.

20. On the estimated market share, Mr George LAI said that a study conducted in 1992 indicated that 45% of passengers were using Mass Transit Railway service and 55% resorted to buses. Members noted from Table 3 of the response that the bus market share was anticipated to be 6% and again cast doubt on its reasonableness. Members asked for more realistic assessments of the market share by buses. Mr Read said in reply that the example provided was one out of 75,000 possible combinations and that traffic situations fluctuated. Mr SIU agreed that cases could be developed further based on some more hypothetical situations, and Mr McPherson undertook to provide more examples to the Subcommittee.

Freight service

21. In referring to paragraph 2.2 (Proposed System Configuration) of Volume 2 of the Full Proposal, a member expressed dissatisfaction at the response from KCRC on this subject. This had also led to doubts on other figures supplied by the consultants since the consultants had implied that figures provided in the section were inaccurate. Mr Tasiaux clarified that the word "triple" in the statement on throughput should read "double" and the capacity under the new freight systems should be 3.9 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEUs). Members requested a re-written version of paragraph 2.2 with elaboration on the assumptions made and the methodology used to derive the new capacity of 3.9 million TEUs. A member also asked the consultants to provide further information on how the system’s throughput capacity could be maximized. Mr McPherson undertook to clear up the misunderstanding.

Evaluation of consultants

22. In response to a member on how KCRC’s assessment panels assessed consultants and requested information on the composition of the Panels, the evaluation process and the criteria used, Mr McPherson advised that there were different types of assessment panels in the KCRC. All followed the same principles in making assessments and putting up recommendations to the Tender Board and the Managing Board. Each evaluation team made up of a mixture of engineering and finance personnel. For cases where open tenders were not involved, team members would have the experience on similar works in Hong Kong to be able to judge the reasonableness of prices quoted.

V Any Other Business

23. Some members raised questions concerning land requirement and financial analysis and the Subcommittee agreed that these would be considered at subsequent meetings. Members also agreed that the next meeting on 12 July 1996 at 8:30 a.m. would be devoted to discussions on Financial Analysis and Transportation Planning.

24. There being no further business, the meeting ended at 10:45 a.m.

Legislative Council Secretariat
30 December 1996

Last Updated on 21 Aug, 1998