Interesting arguments on Road versus Rail
- Hong Kong is proposing to build what will be the worlds longest
bridge across the Pearl River Estuary to connect it with Macau and
Zhuhai in Southern China. I dont have population numbers to hand but
due to the massive urban developments taken place in Southern China
over the past twenty years this region is already a virtual
megacity.The whole idea has been driven by the road-building lobby
from the start.
(sorry I cant just give the url because access to this newspapers
online edition is by subscription) Hope its of some interest.
Saturday, October 18, 2003
Bridge does not need a rail link, says developer
Executives from Hopewell Holdings and the KCRC (Kowloon-Canton
Railway Corporation)clashed yesterday over whether a proposed bridge
linking Hong Kong with Zhuhai and Macau should include a railway.
At a conference panel meeting, Leo Leung Kwok-kei, executive
director of toll-road builder and operator Hopewell Holdings,
suggested a road by itself would be a more attractive option
Noting environmental considerations, he said that while many people
preferred an electric rail system because it could move many people
in an environmentally friendly way, all forms of transport released
Mr Leung also said there were also strict mechanisms in place to
control the amount of car emissions.
"Don't always think that rail is the best [when it comes to the
environment]," he said. "There are many alternatives on
environmental regulation for [regulators to consider]," he said.
Mr Leung cited liquefied natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas as
environmentally friendly fuel for cars.
He also argued that roads were more economical if you took into
account the number of passengers using buses and trains and compared
it with their respective assets.
While Kowloon Motor Bus averaged 3.1 million passengers a day, the
Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation and the Mass Transit Railway
Corporation transported 3.3 million, he said.
Nevertheless, KMB's assets of $6.5 billion paled into insignificance
compared with the railway firms' combined total of $186 billion, he
said, quoting figures from the companies' annual reports.
Hopewell Highway Infrastructure, the newly listed subsidiary of
Hopewell Holdings, will enter a bid if the central government gives
the project a green light and allows private participation.
But James Blake, KCRC's senior director of capital projects, said
the method of comparing companies' assets and passenger flow to
determine efficiency was unfair.
"The rail corporations in Hong Kong pay for everything," Mr Blake
said. "They have to pay for land, all the infrastructure and the
full life cycle of the rail system to ensure safe and reliable
Meanwhile road users had free access to roads, he pointed out,
adding that bus companies did not have to carry the costs of road-
building on their accounting books.
Mr Blake also contended that rail systems had an advantage in that
they were extensive and connected with other modes of transport,
which could create long-term synergy for the region's entire
Financial Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen yesterday was non-committal
on whether the bridge would be financed by private or public funds,
but said it must operate on prudent commercial principles.
"It should mean [any projects] might one day be listed on Hong
Kong's stock exchange, as did the MTRC," he said. "Therefore it is
our policy that this principle should be abided by and I am not
ruling out the possibility that the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge
could become either a private-party-participation kind of scheme or
some variation of that."
Mr Leung said if the road option was adopted, Hopewell Highway
Infrastructure would not seek government financing as it and its
partners should be able to contribute $5 billion of equity capital
and raise the remaining $10 billion from banks.