Kowloon Canton Railway Corporation's current construction programme will see its network more than double in size by the middle of this decade. As well as West Rail, the Corporation has just started construction of around £828M of extensions to its existing East Rail line, which links Tsim Sha Tsui East with long distance lines through China to Beijing and Shanghai. This includes a new border crossing link at Lok Ma Chau. More extensions are also in the pipeline according to James Blake, KCRC's senior director of capital projects.
Work on these extensions includes construction of an 11.4km line branching off East Rail at Tai Wai to the eastern New Territories new towns of Ma On Shan and Lee On. East Rail's Kowloon section is also to be extended from the terminus at Hung Hom to a new station at Tsim Sha Tsui East, 1km south. The two new lines are scheduled to open in 2004.
A new 7.4km spur line between Sheung Shui and the border crossing at Lok Ma Chau is awaiting the final go-ahead. This link is intended to relieve mounting pressure on the already overloaded East Rail border crossing at Lo Wu.
The first major construction contract for the Ma On Shan extension was awarded just before Christmas. Maeda Corporation won the £60.8M contract to build the new station at Tai Wai, Necso-China State joint venture is building the 3.6km viaduct between Tai Wai and Shek Mun and the 4.1km viaduct between Shek Mun and Lee On.
At the southern end of the line, Chun Wo Construction & Engineering won the £10.4M contract to modify the existing Hung Hom terminus.
Contractors have also been short listed for other contracts.
A new train depot at Tai Wai for Ma On Shan An underground pedestrian link between the new Tsim Sha Tsui East station and the MTR station at Tsim Sha Tsui Tunnels between Hung Hom and Tsim Sha Tsui East Tsim Sha Tsui East station itself.
Meanwhile, the Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau spur has fallen foul of Hong Kong's tough new Environmental Protection Department. Last year it turned down KCRC's application for a construction permit to build a viaduct across wetlands in Long Valley after objections from bird watchers.
KCRC is appealing on the grounds that the valley is farmland subject to change in character by the owner-farmers. The corporation says it will create permanent areas of wetland to protect rare species of bird as part of the project.
Further into the future KCRC is looking to extend East Rail from Tsim Sha Tsui East through a £700M tunnel around the southern tip of the Kowloon peninsula linking it to West Rail at Nam Cheong.
KCRC is also examining a further extension from Hung Hom across Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour to the MTR metro station at Central.
This will dovetail with an upgrade of East Rail south of Tai Wai. There are plans for a West Rail spur from Kam Sheung Road to Lok Ma Chau and from Mei Foo to the East Rail station at Tai Wai.
This would create a north-south and east-west network, providing enhanced convenience for travellers to and from the New Territories, says Blake.