HONG KONG is to get six more rail links by 2015, according to the long-awaited Second Railway Development Study which was published on May 16. Transport Secretary Nicholas Ng Wing-fui said the HK$80bn programme would see 70% of the population and 80% of all workplaces within 1 km of a station. With the network increased to 250 route-km, he envisages that the expansion will lift rail's market share of public transport trips from 31 to 46%.

The government's aim is to complete the planning and design so that construction can follow the current projects due to open in 2002-05. This would see the new lines entering service in 2008-15.

RDS2 has fine-tuned the rail priorities established in the Third Comprehensive Transport Study (RG 4.00 p247), and confirmed that several long-proposed schemes will go ahead. These include the KCR link from Nam Cheung to Tsim Sha Tsui, connecting East Rail and West Rail; the second phase of West Rail running up to the border at Lok Ma Chau and Lo Wu; and the freight branch from East Rail to Kwai Chung port. MTR's Island Line will be extended west from Sheung Wan to Kennedy Town, and a parallel North Island Line is to be built west from North Point to serve the reclamations along the harbour shore at Wanchai and Central.

The biggest project to be approved in RDS2 is the HK$37bn East Kowloon line, which will run from Sha Tin to Central via Tai Wai, Diamond Hill, Hung Hom and a fourth cross-harbour rail tunnel. Both KCR and MTR are keen to build this route, and rather than selecting a preferred operator the government has invited both corporations to bid for the rights.