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West Rail repackaged to woo local HK firms

HONG KONG'S largest ever single infrastructure scheme, the £5bn West Rail project, is being repackaged into smaller construction units to encourage bids from local contractors and help support the region's ailing economy.

Pre-qualification advertisements have been placed this week in Hong Kong newspapers only. They show construction of the 30km line divided into 12 contracts rather than the five originally envisaged. 'By making the packages more manageable, we hope more local firms will bid,' stressed Ian Thoms, project director for client Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation.

The high-tech light railway will link Hong Kong's fast growing New Territories with airport and city mass transit lines on the outskirts of Kowloon.

Among the three planned extensions will be a new route to mainland China.

Construction of the initial line will start next spring and five design contracts covering the entire route were awarded last March. Five construction packages totalling £2.3bn were to be matched to these design contracts but the level of work in each was considered too great for many locally- based Hong Kong firms.

A local firm is defined as a company registered in Hong Kong and with a track record of at least 10 years work in the former UK colony.

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