- After years of delays and cost overruns, some operations connecting Sha Tin to Central will begin on Valentine’s Day, offering at least some reprieve to the embattled MTR Corp
Hong Kong's most expensive rail link is finally ready for use, albeit just partially. The belated opening of a section of the scandal-hit Sha Tin-Central link on February 14 is something the community can look forward to. But the weekday inauguration amid the ongoing social unrest also poses logistics and security concerns. Every effort must be made to guard against further woes for the trouble-plagued rail line. Passengers can be excused for feeling unimpressed by the delayed opening. After two decades of planning and construction, only the section from Tai Wai to Kai Tak through Hin Keng and Diamond Hill will be in use initially. Now officially renamed the Tuen Ma Line, the 17km railway linking Tai Wai with Admiralty was supposed to be partially in use by the middle of last year.
Troubled Sha Tin-Central MTR link to partially open on Valentine's Day
The new link is expected to shorten commuting journeys and enhance connectivity. It also marks a turnaround in the dark chapter of the MTR Corporation's history. No other rail lines have suffered more setbacks, the latest being another HK$2 billion cost overrun to push the price tag to HK$99.1 billion. Investigations are still ongoing after it was hit with scandals involving shoddy work at the Hung Hom station and missing safety documents last year.
The revised target of a full opening by 2022 looks ambitious in the wake of MTR Corp's recent records. The latest plan is to commission the section between Kai Tak and Hung Hom by late 2021. The immediate challenge is to monitor the impact on the Kwun Tong line and to coordinate the transport links for a smooth operation.
The MTR Corp remains a leader in the rail industry worldwide. But the recent construction woes have exposed a series of management issues and undermined the city's civil engineering credentials. Separately, it is still struggling to replace some facilities damaged by the protests triggered by the ill-fated extradition bill. It's a pity that the MTR Corp was seen by some radicals as collaborating with police to suppress protests and became the target of vandalism. The partial opening of the Sha Tin-Central link on Valentine's Day is a reminder that the MTR was once a beloved home-grown brand to be proud of. Concerted efforts are needed to ensure the new rail line can operate safely and efficiently.
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