OFFICIALS from Hong Kong and Shenzhen, including Chief Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen and Kowloon–Canton Railway Corp Chairman Michael Tien Puk-sun, participated in the celebrations on August 15 to mark the opening of KCRC's 7·4 km East Rail branch from Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau.

Served by through trains from East Tsim Sha Tsui at 10 min intervals, the new terminus is intended to relieve congestion at Lo Wu by opening a second rail-served border crossing between Hong Kong and Shenzhen.

Designed to handle up to 150 000 passengers/day, the new crossing is initially expected to be used by around 60 000, according to East Rail General Manager Selwyn Lai Sau-heem.

A local economic research group has recommended development of 100 ha site adjacent to the protected wetland nature reserve at Lok Ma Chau as part of plans to merge Hong Kong and Shenzhen into 'a single economic powerhouse bigger than London, Paris or Los Angeles' by 2020.

On August 2 Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yanm-kuen announced that agreement had been reached with the Guangdong provincial government to build the planned Express Rail Link (RG 8.07 p463).

A dedicated alignment would give a 13 min journey time to the border crossing at Futian, compared to 25 min for an extension of West Rail, bringing the Kowloon – Guangzhou journey time down to just 48 min. Expected to cost more than HK$25bn, the line would not open before 2014.

The government is expected to put the project out to tender rather than simply allocating it to the merged KCRC-MTR Corp.