HONG KONG: The Executive Council has finally approved construction of the long-planned Sha Tin - Central metro line, although it is not expected to be completed until 2019. Following the West Island Line, South Island Line and Express Rail Link (p272), it is the latest rail project in the special administrative region to be approved since the merger of MTR Corp and Kowloon-Canton Railway Corp last December.

One of six priority projects in the 2000 rail development strategy (RG 4.00 p247), the Sha Tin - Central line was allocated to KCRC. To be operated as an extension of the Ma On Shan line from Tai Wai, it was expected to encourage redevelopment of the former Kai Tak airport site in Kowloon. The Hong Kong government has decided to adopt a 'service concession approach', funding the HK$37·4bn construction cost directly and leasing the line to MTR Corp under a 50-year operating concession valued at HK$91·8bn. This allows the government to retain control of the property development rights, according to Secretary of Transport & Housing Eva Cheng.

With construction starting in 2011, the 17 km line is expected to open in two phases. The seven-station section from Tai Wai to Hung Hom via Diamond Hill and Kai Tak will be completed in 2015, and the cross-harbour tunnel four years later, following the second phase of the Wan Chai reclamation project. The route has been cut back from Central to terminate at Admiralty, where interchange will be provided with the Island Line. Cheng said proposals for a revised station location at Central South would be reviewed after 2012.

The government is currently considering an application from MTR to build a 3 km extension of the Kwun Tong Line from Yau Ma Tei to the Whampoa Gardens development site in eastern Kowloon. Expected to cost HK$4·8bn to build, this would interchange with the Sha Tin - Central Line at Ho Ma Tin.