HONG KONG, April 22 (Xinhua) -- Hong Kong Executive Council has agreed to ask the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) Corporation to proceed with further planning and design of the Hong Kong section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, which will enhance the city's transport hub position.
Secretary for Transport and Housing Eva Cheng said here that the section will be a 26-km underground rail line that runs from the terminus in West Kowloon to the boundary at Huanggang of Shenzhen city, where it will connect with the link's mainland section.
Briefing the media on Tuesday, Cheng said the link will reinforce the city's position as the transport hub in southern China and integrate Hong Kong into the country's rapidly growing express rail network.
The Hong Kong section will run on the city's first high-speed dedicated track with a maximum speed of 200 kph. This will cut the Hong Kong-Guangzhou traveling time to just under 50 minutes - twice as fast as the Guangzhou-Hong Kong through trains on the East Rail alignment.
The link's two termini will be at West Kowloon in Hong Kong and Shibi in Guangzhou of Guangdong Province. Intermediate stations include Futian and Longhua in Shenzhen, and Humen in Dongguan of Guangdong.
With the adjoining Airport Express Kowloon Station and West Kowloon Station of the Kowloon Southern Link in Hong Kong, the link's terminus will turn West Kowloon into a major rail hub. Linkages will be provided to facilitate commuters.
"The location also has a point-to-point connection with the heart of Central via the existing MTR network. Together with the Kowloon station's new commercial development, it is set to become a prime business center," Cheng said.
The Hong Kong terminus will partly extend into the 3.3-hectare underground area of the West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD) to provide convenient access. Flexibility of the above-ground planning will be maintained.
This integration will greatly enhance the prominence of the rail terminus as the gateway to the Chinese mainland, and the WKCD as a regional cultural hub, Cheng said, adding more visitors to the proposed arts, culture and tourism facilities there will promote cultural tourism.
The mainland terminus at Shibi, where the new Guangzhou Station is located, is one of the four largest passenger transport centers in the country.
In future, commuters will be able to switch to such express long-haul services as the proposed Beijing-Guangzhou Passenger Line at Shibi and the Hangzhou-Fuzhou-Shenzhen Passenger Line at Longhua. The two passenger lines are also due to complete around 2015.
Hong Kong commuters will be able to travel express to several mainland cities, reaching Shanghai in eight hours and Beijing in 10 in the future, as compared with over 20 hours now, Cheng said.
The link is due to carry about 100,000 passengers daily in 2020and 120,000 passengers in 2030, saving 40 million hours of traveling time and generating 83 billion HK dollars(about 10.66 billion U.S. dollars) in economic benefits over the next 50 years. The economic internal rate of return is about 9 percent.
The project is expected to create 5,000 construction jobs and 10,000 more during its operation. Works are due to start in 2009 for completion in 2014 or 2015.
"After careful consideration of both the operational and financial implications, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government has decided to adopt a concession approach to fund the estimated construction cost of 39.5 billion HK dollars ( about 5.07 billion U.S. dollars)," she said.
"Upon completion, the MTRC will be granted a service concession for the subsequent operation and pay the Government annually for the concession," Cheng noted.