HIGHWAY OFFICIALS in Hong Kong have been forced to scale down plans for a new expressway for the second time in three months after opposition from green groups.
The government has confirmed that proposals to build the 8km £846M Route 7, a dual three lane highway, between Kennedy Town and Aberdeen on the western side of Hong Kong Island, have been scrapped.
Instead the Transport Bureau is planning to build a shorter dual two lane road between Kennedy Town and Pokfulam by 2010. The follow-on section between Pokfulam and Aberdeen may never be built.
But officials denied that a growing environmental campaign against the Route 7 project had influenced their decision to scrap the project. They said the changes were made because revisions to traffic projections showed there was less demand for the entire route.
The revised proposals follow hard on the heels of a government decision to scale back the size of Route 10 in the New Territories. This was intended to provide a second connection to Chek Lap Kok airport. The expressway would have linked Lantau Island near the Lantau Link to the north west New Territories, where it would connect with a new bridge to western Shenzhen in mainland China.
But after a public outcry, just the southern section including the Tsing Lung bridge between Lantau and the New Territories will be built (NCE 17 May).
A senior Transport Bureau source told NCE that the original Route 7 name had been dropped and the new highway is now tentatively known as the PokfulamKennedy Town link road.
The Highways Department will invite consultants to bid next year to prepare a £2.2M feasibility study and preliminary design for the new highway.
The successful consultancy firm will assess options for a tunnel under Mount Davis between Kennedy Town and Sandy Bay and a tunnel or partially buried road between Sandy Bay and Telegraph Bay, near the high tech Cyberport complex.
The study is due for completion in 2004. Detailed planning and engineering work is likely to take two years with construction due to start in 2005-06.
Despite plans to reduce the impact of the highway, opponents, including the Save Our Shorelines Society chaired by former legislator Christine Loh Kung-wai, want a railway to be built instead of the road.
The group claims tacit support from the Mass Transit Railway Corporation and proposes a line along the island's western coast from Aberdeen to the existing Island Line which runs along the north coast. Campaigners estimate the rail link could be built for about £385M.