Local consultation for Tuen Mun – Tsuen Wan – Sha Tin Railway
The local consultation exercise is now ongoing. Would residents please refer to the following information and provide your kind opinion to the issue!
The proposed railway is a monorail connecting Tuen Mun, Tsuen Wan and Sha Tin, with an alignment adhering to Tuen Mun Road, without any reclamation.
(* Content of District Quarterly No.7)
Why railway in our district?
1: Railway as vital vessel amid chronic congestion of roads
“Report on Study of Road Traffic Congestion in Hong Kong” released in December 2014 by Traffic Advisory Committee, pointed out that there are too many vehicles on the road causing traffic congestion and the number of vehicles in Hong Kong is increasing in an alarming rate. In recent years, congestion happens on the strategic routes such as Ting Kau Bridge and West Kowloon Highway even there are no traffic accidents. A journey of half an hour ends up costing an hour becoming a norm. Every commute residents could do nothing but wish the traffic would be smooth.
The railway provides an independent transport system which is unaffected by road conditions. It provides stable service amid road traffic imbalance acting as the vital vessels of our district.
2: Substantial increase in population of West New Territories
Along Castle Peak Road – Tuen Mun Section a dozen of residential projects would be completed in near the future. Since bus lanes are in force at Tuen Mun Road during morning peak hours, it is anticipated that most of the new traffic from these new residences mostly flow to the Sham Tseng Interchange. Seven years later, Hung Shui Kiu and Yuen Long Nam new development areas would be progressively occupied, which further increase the burden on Tuen Mun Road and Ting Kau Bridge.
Nonetheless, the government has no relevant railway planning. Relevant documents of “Hong Kong 2030+” suggests the development of East Lantau Metropolis and rail link between Tuen Mun and Hong Kong Island after 2030. It is virtually impossible to use the current infrastructure to sustain the current development of West New Territories. Soon, Tuen Mun Road will likely be back to the era of everyday-congestion which we experienced in the past.
Why terminating at Tai Wai rather than Nam Cheong?
3: Railway connecting East and West providing wider coverage
Connecting the new railway to Nam Cheong Station may allow easy interchange to Tung Chung Line to Hong Kong Island or West Rail to Tsim Sha Tsui or Hung Hom. The other way round is to connect the new railway to Tai Wai Station. As such, Tsuen Wan Line, East Rail Line and the upcoming Eastern and Western lines would be easily accessible. Accessing Kowloon East would be easily than before.
Moreover, the construction of the railway takes time and heavy cost. At present, the railway network focused on the development of routes connecting the North and South. The infrastructure investment connecting the East and the New Territories is apparently less. Moreover, as Hong Kong is in the process of decentralisation, a sustained tread of relocation of commercial activities to Tsuen Wan, Kwun Tong and Shatin is on the way. Rail connection between Tuen Mun, Tsuen Wan and Tai Wai stations enhances the currently weak transportation between the three major towns, which serves Hong Kong as a whole rather than residents in the local districts.
Why monorail rather than conventional heavy rail?
4: Facing the true limitations and Raising viable proposals
The government repeatedly proposed the construction of Tsuen Tsuen Railway and studied its feasibility. Since the Railway Development Strategy in 1994, a new railway linking Tuen Mun and Tsuen Wan along the Castle Peak Road was being studied but later decided to observe Tai Lam Tunnel which becomes West Rail Line today. The task forces of Tsuen Wan and Tuen Mun District Council in the past published a report on the proposed construction of Tsuen Tsuen Railway in 2011. However, the government continued to use the conventional railway development model to carry on their feasibility studies. As a result, the conclusion of “high cost”, “high difficulty” and “affecting the natural scenery” was drawn in the Railway Development Strategy Report in 2014.
For past two decades, many studies have explicitly ruled out the conventional railway development model for Tsuen Tuen Railway. The only way forward is to face the problems pointed out in the research report squarely and raise practical solutions. I propose to build the railway without reclamation and run along the Tuen Mun Highway. Monorail allows more flexibility than the conventional railway to run through undulating hills.
Why dual system of express and local trains?
5: Benefiting most areas along without sacrificing speed
In the Railway Development Strategy 2014, there were only five stations between Tuen Mun and Tsuen Wan West, including Sam Shing, So Kwun Wat, Tsing Lung Tau, Sham Tseng and Bayview. The report concluded that the population is dispersed along the route and there would be limited time saving should the new railway be built.
I propose a dual railway system with express and local trains which cover even more areas. For the more densely populated areas, the station will be upgraded to express train stations to keep the railway attractive. Areas in which future developments are known, such as Cafeteria Beach, Tai Lam will benefit from the railway. For areas with less population but without anticipated significant population changes such as Ting Kau, the necessity to build up a station would depend on the future planning.
Dual systems and even multiple systems are very common in Japan, which we would learn from its mode of operation. For example, the Tokaido line connects Tokyo and Kobe, in which express trains only stop at major cities, while local trains stops at rural areas.
What would be the implication to our district?
Although I propose the railway to run along the hillside which avoid damaging the coastal environment, railway development would cause significant changes in the community.
The railway will bring tourists into the district and streets may become crowded. Asset prices may rise due to the railway, which may lead to rising rents, disappearance of shops and presence of chain stores. Risks of redevelopment or rezoning would be increased due to the enhanced transportation. Traffic assessment may allow more development projects to be carried out along Castle Peak Road and increase the population density.
Monorail – The First Monorail in Hong Kong
Monorail is one of the passenger-carrying railway way. It differs from conventional railway because the train rides on a box-shaped straddle beam made of concrete with rubber tyres, as compared to the steel wheels on parallel steel rails in the conventional railway system. Rubber tyres produce less noise and no squeezing sound. Monorail does not need additional a board base or noise barrier. It is visually lighter than the conventional railway. It causes less damage to the scenery and obstructs less daylight and wind. It is more flexible and easier to manoeuvre on undulating hills of Tuen Mun Road.
The example of Chongqing Rail Transit
Chongqing is a city on highland with hills. Building conventional railway for the city is relatively difficult. Chongqing introduced the monorail system from Japan and becomes currently the longest railway system carrying the most passenger in the world.
One of the most frequently made critique is how does this proposal respond to the cost concern, in which the government proposal is partly rejected because of the enormous cost. This is responded by first calculating the cost and profit of current railway development model. Take South Island Line East Section as example, the construction cost as reported by MTR to the Legislative Council is HK$15200 million as at November 2014. The residential development will be of 357500 m2 and that of commercial will be of 47000 m2. Take the nearby residential second hand price as reference, the price for each m2 of saleable area is HK$0.1605 million. The revenue for residential development is approximately HK$57378 million. The residential construction cost, as reported by Rider Levett Bucknall in fourth quarter of 2014, is HK$0.023 million per m2. Therefore the cost is estimated to be HK$8222.5 million. Subtracting railway and residential construction cost from the residential revenue, the net profit is HK$33955 million, which is approximately 2 times the cost.
In light of the cost issue, this proposal suggests the railway should be re-evaluated with the following three adjustments:
1. substitute the proposed underground heavy rail with elevated medium-capacity railway to reduce costs.
2. develop properties on depot near Tai Lam or Gold Coast to help finance the construction.
3. diversify the spending from solely infrastructural to integrated community facilities.
Basic direction of adjusting the location of the station
The location of the stations are determined by balancing a series of factors, using the common assumption of 400-metre passenger catchment radius:
1. Population & Density
The station is attracted to the centre of population. This included the anticipated developments published through the Outline Zoning Plans of Town
Planning Board, the land sale schedule of Lands Department and the actual construction sites from satellite imagery.
2. Existing buildings & Topography
As a general principle, the railway has to avoid sharp turns and deep cutting into the landscape. Sharp turns reduces speed and comfort while deep
cutting costs a lot and complicates the construction.
3. Potential useful sites
Along the 18-km strip, there are some sites which would be the interest for the railway station to connect to.
A multi-purpose railway
This new railway not only benefit the residents by shorter commute time, but also enable outsiders easier to come. This makes commerce or industry possible in the strip. For example, additional programmes in stations are seen as necessary to activate this strip. Residents travel far away from the strip for work, grocery or recreation on daily basis. Railway station is meanwhile a thoroughfare for all passengers on train, including those whose destination is not that station. Thus, it is the most efficient place to provide the residents those daily needed spaces. Passengers from other stations may stop at respective stations for a particular service. This is the intention of the commune – facilities placed in one station could also serves nearby stations.
[The polling period was over. The results would be announced soon.]