A series of future projects will join East and West Rail to form an integrated network by the middle of the next decade.
Expansion of KCRC's railway network is expected to continue after the East Rail extension to Lok Ma Chau opens in 2007. The Corporation is already working on a series of proposals which, if approved by the Hong Kong government, will link East and West Rail together at two separate points. They could also give KCRC its first route across Victoria Harbour to Hong Kong Island via a new undersea crossing.
Top of the list of priorities for KCRC major projects director James Blake is the Kowloon southern loop. This highly complex combination of bored and cut and cover tunnel under the densely built up tip of the Kowloon peninsula will connect East Rail's new East Tsim Sha Tsui station with West Rail.
The project was earmarked for KCRC in the Hong Kong government's railway strategy in 2000 and the Corporation's proposals are aimed at getting the scheme into the design phase as soon as possible. 'If we get the go ahead we could start scheme design work this year, ' says Blake.
Blake favours the use of design and build for some of the work, such as a shaft for a station at Canton Road on the edge of Kowloon's main shopping district, an area packed with busy roads, high rise hotels and offices.
'Design and build will give contractors more input into the design process so they can deal with the constraints and conditions of the site, ' he says.
KCRC is also bidding against the Mass Transit Railway Corporation (MTRC) for permission to build a new line to relieve the busy southern section of East Rail. Both rail operators have to produce proposals before the Hong Kong government decides which to proceed with.
The Sha Tin to Central link will also take the new line under Victoria Harbour to the Central district and will run north through east Kowloon to Sha Tin via an MTR interchange at Diamond Hill.
The driving force is the need to get a rail link into East Kowloon, where redevelopment of the now disused Kai Tak airport site is expected to trigger a big upsurge in the local population.
To complete the circle KCRC wants to add a northern link between West Rail and East Rail, connecting Kam Sheung Road and Kwu Tong, providing a direct link between east and west.
The other major extension will be the Port Rail Line, which which will provide a direct freight rail link between the mainland and Hong Kong's container terminals.