HONG Kong’s secretary for transport and housing, Mr Frank Chan, has announced that the final Hung Hom - Admiralty section of the Sha Tin - Central Link (SCL) is due to open on May 15.

Hung Hom - Admiralty, with one intermediate station at Exhibition Centre, is the fourth rail crossing of Hong Kong harbour and takes the project to its full length of 46km serving 16 stations.

The $HK 90.7bn ($US 11.7bn) SCL project is the costliest in the history of metro operator MTR and was originally scheduled to open in mid-2019. A report from a Hong Kong government-appointed inquiry released in 2020 heavily criticised MTR and its contractor Leighton Asia for “serious deficiencies” in their supervision of the project.

Announcing the new opening date after the completion of testing and trial operations, Chan said “we have enhanced our scrutiny and supervision of the project and related procedures.” He added “we will learn a lesson from the past and let past experience guide us for the future.”

The SCL incorporates the East Line formerly operated by the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation (KCRC). Under a concession agreement MTR will pay KCRC $HK 1bn over 10 years for the use of its property. KCRC merged with MTR in 2007.

The nine-car trains on the SCL will run at  2min 42sec intervals during the peak, with journeys between Tai Wai and Admiralty taking only 17 minutes without the need to change, 11 minutes faster than at present.

Passengers will be able to check the loading of each car using the MTR app, enabling them to choose a section of the train with more capacity.

“We will also dispatch empty trains during peak hours to ease the congestion problems at platforms,” said MTR chief of operating and metro segment, Mr Sammy Wong Kwan-wai. “We believe we can cope with the rise in passenger demand,” he told the South China Morning Post.

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