For a city whose face is always changing as we speak — construction is going on above and below the ground — Hongkongers may not be surprised with the transformation going on. But still, it is worth noting that new projects still attract attention. Let alone the city’s execution of bold plans that could change the way we live.
I remember when Tseung Kwan O line was launched in 2002, people flocked into Tseung Kwan O residential areas after feeling great relief and convenience being connected by rail. By then, I become aware of the impact a major project brings to people.
So in case you are not aware, these are the upcoming projects Hong Kong is busy working on.
1. West Island Line
If you are familiar with western frontier of Hong Kong island, it’s hard to imagine that the current Island line can only go as far as Sheung Wan, leaving Sai Ying Pun, Kennedy Town and Pok Fu Lam residents to contend with tram and bus routes. Now currently under construction are extensions of Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong University (not to be confused with the University station located in Shatin) and Kennedy Town.
Expected Year of Completion: 2014
What this brings: The completion of this project could mean fewer bus routes serving the enormous West Hong Kong population as residents are giving up on traffic congestion in favor of the subway. But this could also mean more crowded stations. For example, if I were from Sai Ying Pun going to Kowloon, I’d normally take the KMB 101 route. But with a faster alternative, I’ll go in favor of the subway train even if it meant I am giving up my nap in a comfortable seat in the bus.
2. Kwun Tong Line Extension
In late 2010, then Chief Executive Donald Tsang approved the construction of the Kwun Tong Line Extension. This means the existing green line which currently spans from Tiu Keng Leng to Yau Ma Tei will have two more stops: Whampoa and Ho Man Tin stations. According to MTR’s official site about the project, it takes about five minutes from Yau Ma Tei to Whampoa. For someone traveling from Central to Whampoa, via the Tsuen Wan and Kwun Tong line interchange would only take about 17 minutes which is unimaginable at the moment.
Expected Year of Completion: 2015
What this brings: After losing one transport link when Star Ferry ceased operations from Central to Hung Hom, Whampoa becomes more accessible especially to those whose who despise unpredictable bus schedules.
3. Express Rail Link (XRL)
The Express Rail Link West Kowloon Terminus is subject of controversy but also featured as futuristic and surreal looking. Speaking of superlatives, its vast expanse is considered the largest underground high-speed railway in the world at 4,628,481 square feet, which hosts to trains that operate up to 200 km / hour and serves 10,000 passengers per hour per direction. It also costs a staggering HK$62.4 billion in 2009 prices. Traveling from Hong Kong to Guangzhou currently takes a little less than two hours. But the launch of high-speed trains at XRL, it will be cut down to a mere 48 minutes.
Photo credit: aedas.com
Expected Year of Completion: 2015
What this brings: This express railway network hopes to save 42 million hours of travel time, translated to HK$87 billion in 50 years of operation while enhancing Hong Kong’s stand on environmental protection as railway travel produces less emission than aircraft. Its construction benefited some 9,000 workers while additional 2,000 jobs in clerical and professional staff. This could also spur economic activities in tourism, catering and retail industries which could generate thousands of jobs.
4. South Island Line
It’s not only the folks at Kennedy Town and west of Hong Kong who were left out with the existing railway structure of the MTR. Southern District has also been unable to take advantage of railway efficiency. No wonder the only way to get to Ocean Park, in Aberdeen is through CityBus’ route 629. But that issue has long been resolved as construction of the South Island Line is now underway. Ocean Park, Wong Chuk Hang, Lei Tung and South Horizons will be named stations in this subway line along with Admiralty, which also serves as interchange station to Shatin to Central Link.
Expected Year of Completion: 2015
What this brings: Travel time is greatly reduced. Once this line is open, travel time from Admiralty to Ocean Park will just be 4 minutes, while travelers from Admiralty to South Horizons will only spend 11 minutes travel time. (Enough of that dreaded Aberdeen Tunnel.) By completing this line and the long-awaited Shatin to Central Link, Hong Kong’s definition of travel efficiency will reach a higher level. Imagine the hassles of traveling from South Horizons going to Shatin at the moment. The new line should significantly cut travel time.
5. Hong Kong Zhuhai Macau Bridge
Due for completion in 2016, the Hong Kong Zhuhai Macau Bridge is a 29.6 km dual 3-lane carriageway which connects Hong Kong, Macau and Zhuhai, three major cities of the Pearl River Delta. The project was conceived to mitigate increase in traffic of people and goods between Hong Kong and neighboring areas.
Expected Year of Completion: 2016
What this brings: More efficiency in movement of goods, labor and capital across the whole Pearl River Delta region. Travel time between Hong Kong and Zhuhai or Macau in this 29-kilometer bridge (one of the longest in the world) would be cut from 4.5 hours to 40 minutes. But among the perceived drawbacks of the project is that some tourism areas currently experienced by patrons of Ngong Ping 360 cable car could suffer as Hong Kong’s section of the bridge will be developed.
6. Wan Chai Bypass
Hong Kong is infamous for narrow roads and thus becomes a main reason for traffic congestion and inability to construct supplemental facilities such as bike lanes and accessibility areas. With the dual 3-lane 4-kilometer Wan Chai Bypass, traffic will be alleviated in the Gloucester Road – Harcourt Road – Connaught Road corridor, giving an option for motorists to take this alternative route between Central and Causeway Bay, which further connects to Island Eastern Corridor.
Expected Year of Completion: 2017
What this brings: The creation of the Wan Chai Bypass not only eases traffic within Central, Admiralty and Wan Chai areas. It also creates additional space for recreational facilities in the reclaimed area. Travel time is considerably reduced between Central and Eastern District of Hong Kong island. However, this could encourage presence of
more vehicles and increase roadside emissions unless the government has measures in place.
7. Shatin to Central Link
This line serves to ease passenger traffic from Hong Kong’s northern districts to the business district but also helps connect existing lines to a major transport hub. The route is divided into two segments. The Tai Wai to Hung Hom segment will connect Ma On Shan Line and West Rail Line at each end, forming the East West Corridor. The remaining Hung Hom to Admiralty segment will become the extension of East Rail Line. As Hung Hom serves as Hong Kong’s main terminal for intercity trains, the Link will boost accessibility for people traveling to and from mainland cities.
The new Hung Hom Station concourse after improvement works.
Photo credit: mtr-shatincentrallink.hk
Expected Year of Completion: 2020
What this brings: This eases the traffic congestion at Kowloon Tong, a hub that links both East Rail and Kwun Tong Line as the Link’s East West Corridor utilizes Diamond Hill section of the Kwun Tong Line. So if I wish to go home in Tseung Kwan O from Shatin, I’ll be making an interchange at Diamond Hill and don’t have to pass by Kowloon Tong, a preferred hub for people taking the Tsuen Wan and West Rail Lines. The establishment of this line also aims to reduce roadside emissions so let’s hope that objective will bear fruit.
As we await the completion of these projects, it is best to plan ahead and think how they affect our lives in the future.