An exciting rail project in Hong Kong is nearing its completion. The Hong Kong Express Rail Link project, which started in 2011, should be finished entirely by the end of 2018. It will greatly reduce travel time between Hong Kong and Guangzhou, strengthening links and integration between Hong Kong and mainland China. This has been noted positively by several prominent figures. For example, Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a speech celebrating the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the motherland during the inaugural ceremony of the fifth-term government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. He expressed confidence that economic projects such as the Express Link will help China to become a hub for new intuitive development.
The build has been planned for a long time. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government proposed the Hong Kong section of the express rail link in 2000. The Legislative Council of Hong Kong discussed the proposal between 2005 and 2007. Then, the Chief Executive Council adopted a dedicated corridor option for the project in August 2007.
The sheer scale of the build is impressive. The Hong Kong section of Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong express rail link (XRL) will connect Hong Kong with Shenzhen and Guangzhou with 26km of train track. The total length of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express rail link will be 142km. It will be completed in two sections: the Guangzhou section (116km) and the Hong Kong section (26km). It includes construction of emergency rescue sidings and the stabling sidings in Shek Kong, as well as ventilation facilities at Mai Po, Ngau Tam Mei and Pat Heung, along with an emergency access point at Tai Kong Po. The build includes construction of a temporary magazine site near Tai Shue Ha in Yuen Long for the blasting operations during construction.
The line also runs from West Kowloon in Hong Kong to Huanggang and will be connected with the 16,000km national high-speed railway network. It will have one station at West Kowloon in Hong Kong.
The new network is expected to carry around 99,000 passengers a day by completion. After it has been constructed, the estimated journey time between Hong Kong and Futain will take just 14 minutes. In a similarly efficient fashion, the journey between Hong Kong and Shenzhen North will take 23 minutes. Lastly, the line from Hong Kong to Guangzhou South will take 48 minutes.
In terms of routes, the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong express rail link will begin at Guangzhou South and run through Dong Chong, Humen, Guangming, Shenzhen North and Futian to end the mainland link. It will then continue to West Kowloon as the Hong Kong section.
MTR Corporation will oversee, manage and operate the project. The company was asked to carry out planning and design on the proposed express rail link in April 2008. In the following October, amendments were made to the proposed express link.
Funding for construction of the corridor project was approved by the Legislative Council in January 2010. Construction of the corridor commenced in January 2010.
A project of this size required practical, modern construction methods. Tunnel boring machines have been used for the construction of tunnels along the line. In addition, the construction of tunnels at Tse Uk Tsuen in Pat Heung and Shek Yam in Kwai Chung will be carried out with a drill and blast method, whereas cut and cover methods will be used for the construction of emergency rescue sidings and stabling sidings at Shek Kong.
Contractors have played an enormous role in bringing the project towards its completion, and MTR Corporation has embarked on multiple ventures with various partners. This means that:
Bachy Soletanche Group was awarded a HK$461m ($59.30m) contract to construct the West Kowloon terminus and diaphragm walls. Hsin Chong Construction was awarded a HK$333.8m ($42.92m) contract for removal and reprovisioning of the Nam Cheong property foundation.
The Tysan Foundation and VIBRO-Chun Wo joint venture were awarded HK$497m ($63.94m) and HK$321.2m ($41.3m) contracts for carrying out works on West Kowloon terminus piles (north and south sites respectively).
Removal of obstructions on the Sham Mong road will be carried out by Paul Y. The construction has been placed under a HK$159m ($20.55m) contract.
The joint venture of Laing O’Rourke-Hsin Chong-Paul Y will construct a south of West Kowloon terminus station under a HK$3.3bn ($426.9m) contract. Bachy Soletanche and Laing O’Rourke joint venture were awarded a HK$1.03bn ($133.6m) contract to construct the north of West Kowloon terminus station.
A Gammon and Leighton joint venture was awarded with a HK$2.9bn ($370.7m) contract to build an approach tunnel at West Kowloon terminus south. The construction of the north approach tunnel for West Kowloon terminus was assigned to the Bachy Soletanche and Laing O’Rourke joint venture for HK$1.03bn ($133.68m).
The joint venture of Dragages and Bouygues were awarded HK$3.6bn ($471.7m) and HK$1.38bn ($177.9m) contracts for constructing tunnels from Mei Lai road to Hoi Ting road and Shek Yam to Mei Lai road respectively.
Leighton Contractors (Asia) were awarded a HK$3.2bn ($415.97m) contract to construct tunnels from Tse Uk Tsuen to Shek Yam.
Maeda and China State entered a joint venture, and were awarded with a HK$1.5bn ($193.1m) contract to build tunnels from Tai Kong Po to Tse Uk Tsuen. These contractors were also awarded a HK$3.2bn ($413.7m) contract involving the construction of Shek Kong stabling sidings and emergency rescue sidings.
ATAL Engineering was awarded two contracts worth HK$297.3m ($38.23m) and HK$140m ($18.05m) respectively to provide services for tunnel ventilation facilities and emergency rescue sidings as well as Shek Kong stabling sidings.
Penta-Ocean Construction will build tunnels from Mai Po to Ngau Tam Mei under a HK$1.6bn ($216.46m) contract. Construction of tunnels from Huanggang to Mai Po was assigned to the CRCC-HC-CR15G joint venture for HK$1.69bn ($217.4m).
On 6th July 2011, the Chun Wo – CRGL – QR joint venture was assigned with a HK$1.16bn ($150.2m) contract for the track work and overhead line systems. In May 2011, the GAS joint venture was awarded with a contract worth HK$259m ($33.41m) to provide tunnel environmental control systems.
In August 2011, the Shinryo Corporation was awarded with a HK$294m ($37.3m) contract to provide trackside auxiliaries. In August 2011, the Kier-Kaden-OSSA joint venture was awarded with a HK$1.5bn ($194.7m) contract to build tunnels from Ngau Tam Mei to Tai Kong Po.
The chairman of the MTR Corporation, Frederick Ma, said that the progress of the construction is satisfactory, although the co-location arrangement at the West Kowloon terminus has yet to be finalized. Despite this, it should still be ready by the third quarter of 2018. This means that Hong Kong and mainland China are just one year away from increased connectivity.