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Hong Kong airport opening delayed by rail link

CHEK LAP Kok airport will open in July, three months late, Hong Kong Financial Secretary Donald Tsang announced on Tuesday.

The decision brings to an end months of speculation over the opening date for the new airport, part of HK's £12bn Airport Core Programme. The opening was originally scheduled for April, but Tsang said the first flights would not arrive until 6 July, days after the railway link to the city centre is completed.

A report in the South China Morning Post this week claimed there was disagreement between the Airport Authority and both airlines and ACP contractors over when the airport should open. The AA has been keen to accept the first passengers as scheduled in April. But those involved in the nine other ACP projects have been expressing doubts for some time over the sense of opening the airport with transport links incomplete.

An AA spokesman blamed the delay on the 34km Mass Transit Railway, which is not due to be finished until the end of June. 'We are still aiming to complete Chek Lap Kok by the original April target,' he stressed. 'Technically we could open the airport without a railway, using buses and ferries to transport passengers to the terminals.'

But a spokesman for the New Airport Projects Co-ordination Office said: 'It would not be worth reorganising transport links for a few months'.

The MTR has been beset by problems from the start. A late financing agreement left the railway on a tight 43 month construction programme.

Last year the MTR Corporation described an acceleration to the programme as 'a possibility' (NCE 29 June). But shortages of electricians on building services and M&E contracts have since de-railed those plans.

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