HONG KONG, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) -- The Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) on Saturday approved a HKSAR government proposal to earmark 66.9 billion HK dollars (8.6 billion U.S. dollars) for the construction of the Hong Kong section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong express rail link.
Speaking after the meeting of the finance committee of the Legislative Council (LegCo), Secretary for Transport and Housing Eva Cheng said the project was in the best interest of Hong Kong and built for the next and future generations.
"It is not only a transport project, but also an important community investment," she said, adding people from different sectors and levels will benefit.
The approval came after marathon meetings of the finance committee as some of the LegCo members raised questions about the plan, and supporters and protesters gathered outside the LegCo building to voice their opinions.
The Hong Kong section of the express rail link will be a 26-km underground rail corridor from the terminus in west Kowloon to the boundary south of Huanggang, where it will connect to the mainland section of the rail link.
The funding approved on Saturday comprises a 55 billion HK dollars (7.1 billion U.S. dollars) cost for the construction of the railway works, 11.8 billion HK dollars (1.5 billion U.S. dollars) for non-railway works and about 86 million HK dollars (11. 0 million U.S. dollars) for land acquisition and clearance.
Cheng said the HKSAR government would address people's concern carefully and closely monitor the construction expenditure, regularly report the details to LegCo, and put in place a spending control mechanism.
The HKSAR government will consider working with the district council to hire professionals to provide advice to owners and residents of affected buildings in the Tai Kok Tsui area. It will also actively work on the compensation arrangements for the affected households in the Choi Yuen Tsuen village, she said.
Cheng also announced that the registration period will be extended to the end of February for those affected households that have not registered with authorities.
The HKSAR government will improve its consultation work in future railway development and transport projects, she added.
The express rail link is part of a 16,000-km national high- speed rail network currently under construction in China. Works on the mainland section of the rail link between Hong Kong and Guangzhou started in late 2005. The HKSAR government has previously planned for the construction of the Hong Kong section to start in late 2009. The Hong Kong section is expected to be completed in 2015.
The traveling time by railway from Hong Kong to Guangzhou will be reduced from about 100 minutes to 48 minutes. Passengers from Hong Kong shall also be able to arrive in Wuhan in five hours, Shanghai in eight hours and Beijing in ten hours.
The HKSAR government said it expected economic benefits of 87 billion HK dollars (11.2 billion U.S. dollars) for the express rail link in the first 50 years.