Additional cross boundary facilities are an extremely important part of the demand for rail travel. Original planned as part of a second phase to West Rail, these have been put aside in favour of a new branch of East Rail.
The new crossing, which is required by 2004, will be via a spur from Sheng Shui on East Rail to Lok Ma Chau. A short walk will take travellers to a mass transit system on the Shenzhen side, due for opening at about the same time.
East Rail's current crossing is at Lo Wu, which serves both through and local travellers. 'It is a very popular crossing. At the moment it handles on average 180,000 people a day, up to more than a quarter of a million at festival times,' says Blake. The numbers have been increasing 10% a year and 'clearly it is going to be swamped if we don't provide another crossing'. There are several reasons. 'Part of it is working, part of it is business and part of it is ordinary social activities - shopping and visits,' says Blake. People might buy fabric in Hong Kong, but take it to a tailor in across the boundary.
Lok Ma Chau is an obvious point for a crossing, explains Blake, as the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone is also experiencing a rapid development and growth in population, boosted by a very large transient population.
Construction could start in 2000, complete by 2004. Preliminary feasibility study has been carried out, and the work is now moving into formal design.