CHINA: Hong Kong's Chief Executive-in-Council formally approved the 17 km Shatin to Central Link on March 27. The Legislative Council is expected to authorise funding for the estimated HK$64·9bn metro project before its summer recess, enabling construction to start in mid-2012.

Although developed as one project, the SCL is to built as two separate sections. The 11 km first phase linking Hung Hom and Tai Wai is expected to be completed in 2018, connecting West Rail with MTR's Ma On Shan line. Through services would operate between Tuen Mun and Wu Kai Sha via East Kowloon.

The 6 km second phase from Hung Hom to Admiralty would follow in 2020, allowing East Rail services to be extended under the harbour to Hong Kong Island. This section is to be completed later, as it must interface with other infrastructure projects including the Wan Chai Development Phase II and Central-Wan Chai Bypass.

The SCL project includes 10 stations, of which six will provide interchanges to existing lines. Total ridership over the two sections of new line is predicted at 1·1 million passengers/day in 2021. Average journey time savings will total 75 million hours per year, contributing to the economic benefits valued at HK$4·4bn in the first year of full operation.

'The SCL will play a critically vital part in connecting all districts of Hong Kong with an integrated rail network,' said MTR Corp CEO Jay Walder. 'It will provide much needed railway service to the East Kowloon district including Ho Man Tin, To Kwa Wan, Ma Tau Wai and Kai Tak, and will go a long way to facilitating these areas to rejuvenate and prosper.'