Harbour Views 7 May 2007


The structure of the rail merger is a threat to the sustainable development of Hong Kong

The expansion of our rail based transport network will require parallel rail lines and new rail lines and stations under existing buildings. For these, there are limited or no development rights available to finance the investment. Moreover, parallel capacity may not be in the best interest of the MTRC shareholders. It is therefore highly irresponsible for the Government and the Hong Kong community to be placed in a position whereby the public interest in the expansion of new rail is held hostage to the negotiation over subsidies and fares with a privately owned rail monopoly. The current discussion over the terms of the merger is a clear warning. More on this below.
Sunday, May 6, 2007 
Many problems to solve before rail merger can go ahead

The ongoing struggle with the merger as identified in your leader, "Rail merger needs putting on fast track" (May 4), is a sign there is a fundamental problem with the deal - and this needs to be addressed before we can fast-track the merger.

The benefit of merging the two rail operations into one is clear, with our limited land resources and high density, it is inefficient to have more than one rail operator.

However, the administration's failure to agree on reasonable fare control and other relevant measures to protect the interests of the public, and the problems identified for the minority shareholders by David Webb, "MTR fare cap misleading" (April 27) have highlighted that there is a significant problem with the proposed structure of the merger.

It is fundamentally wrong for the new rail monopoly to be owned by a private company, as shareholders' interests will certainly conflict with the public interest.

Given the failure to gain adequate protection for the public with reasonable guarantees in the discussions so far, the deal should be changed and the KCRC as a government-owned public body should acquire the rail assets from the MTR Corp.

Looking into the future, this must be the most sensible solution.

Hong Kong's unique topography of narrow strips of nearly fully developed land squeezed between mountains and the harbour, provides few opportunities for new roads in response to the rapid saturation of our existing vehicular corridors.

The sustainable development of Hong Kong, including the ongoing density increase by continuing the protection of private property development rights, the government land sales programme and the full realisation of the urban renewal strategy, will become increasingly dependent on the expansion of our rail network. More importantly, the few existing rail lines are overcrowded for an increasing part of the day, resulting in a sub-standard environment for the many residents who are dependent on rail for work and leisure.

Paul Zimmerman, Designing Hong Kong Harbour District

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