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Village to be sacrificed for Hong Kong High Speed Rail

wyliepoon

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#1
While we here in Toronto (and across North America) are looking at various high-speed rail plans, in Hong Kong the project to bring high-speed rail from China into the city is mired in controversy, the biggest one involving the clearance of a village for an emergency station...

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http://www.thestandard.com.hk/news_detail.asp?pp_cat=30&art_id=89364&sid=25754048&con_type=3

Last stop Exco

Patsy Moy

Monday, October 19, 2009


The controversial Express Rail Link between Hong Kong and Shenzhen will be tabled at the Executive Council tomorrow, with planners eager for the green light to start on the project almost immediately.

But the project faces more problems than its cost - HK$54 billion, or HK$14.5 billion beyond the original estimate.

For just as Exco members are reviewing the project, hundreds of villagers who stand to lose homes and land will be gathered outside the Central Government Offices to clamor against the line's route.

The government hopes to start building the 26-kilometer West Kowloon- Shenzhen section of the 140km link to Guangzhou by the end of the year.

If it does not run on that schedule, an insider warned yesterday, the cost could escalate further. The original estimate was HK$39.5 billion.

Delay and derailment are exactly what villagers from Choi Yuen Tsuen have in mind.

Under the government plan, the line will pass Choi Yuen Tsuen, which will become an emergency station. That will mean the clearance of 150 households - or around 500 villagers.

Resisting the plan, more than 400 villagers, relatives, friends and supporters of the activist groups staged a protest at Choi Yuen Tsuen yesterday.

They put up banners and chanted "No removal, No tearing down" and "We won't give up our homes for money." They also tore up fake banknotes.

An elderly resident, who identified herself as Madam Wong, said she spent her savings to build houses on her land. "We want t
o pass our land and houses to our next generation," she said.

"This is our home. The air here is fresh and the area is spacious - something we cannot find elsewhere."

Villagers caused chaos and confrontation last Tuesday when Secretary for Transport and Housing Eva Cheng Yu- wah attended a public consultation in Choi Yuen Tsuen over the line. Cheng held separate meetings with residents of Wang Toi Shan and Choi Yuen Tsuen in Shek Kong and Pat Heung in Yuen Long. They too will be affected by the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link.

Accompanying her was Heung Yee Kuk chief Lau Wong-fat, who said he will help villagers find suitable alternative farmland.

At Choi Yuen Tsuen, about 20 protesters in green chanted slogans to interrupt Cheng's speech, saying they would never leave the village.

Yet if villagers do not move out voluntarily, another government official revealed, the land will simply be taken under the Railways Ordinance.

"We plan to start construction by the end of the year," the official added, "but we can wait until the second half of next year to clear Choi Yuen Tsuen. Once Exco has given the go-ahead, the government will move on, no matter what."

Half of the families in Choi Yuen Tsuen have supposedly registered with the government to put on record they live there, and officials are confident most will move without a fight.

"Besides compensation, various families have their own special requests," the official said.

"The government will try to satisfy them as long as the demands are reasonable."

Villagers and their supporters estimate that only seven families are prepared to move out, but Lau believes at least half are willing to accept compensation - likely to be increased from an average of HK$200 per square foot for farmland to more than HK$500 psf.

Those who do not own land or a home but have lived there for 10 years could receive up to HK$430,000 for a family living in a 400-square-foot home.

The government is also considering compensation of between HK$3,000 and HK$10,000 for squatter hut residents not eligible for public housing.



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Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link Project Description (MTR Website)

The proposed project scheme in Hong Kong comprises the underground West Kowloon Terminus (WKT), and dedicated tunnel of 26km in length from WKT to the Hong Kong / Shenzhen Boundary. There will be no intermediate station in the Hong Kong Section.

Stations

Hong Kong Section - West Kowloon Terminus
Mainland Section - Futian, Longhua (New Shenzhen), Humen and Shibi (New Guangzhou)

Stabling Sidings

A stabling sidings and maintenance facility in Shek Kong with an emergency rescue station

Route Length

Approximately 26km (Hong Kong section only - 142km if including section in Mainland China)

Train Frequency

Approximately 3 minutes peak hour headway (ultimate)

Train Speed

Maximum operating speed at 200km/hour

Maximum Passenger Capacity

10,000 passengers per hour per direction



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Criticisms of the project:

1. Clearance of Choi Yuen Tsuen village to make way for emergency station.

2. Estimated cost of the project is HK$54 billion, or HK$14.5 billion beyond the original estimate. This is to be built by the HK government using tax dollars, and then turned over to be managed by subway operator MTR (which itself is profitable).

Some have said that it would be cheaper if the construction on the HK side was constructed by the same crew building the Mainland China section of the route, using cheaper labour and materials.

3. The proposed route is already served by many transportation options including conventional inter-city trains and ferries, which perform almost as well on such a short route (142 km)

4. There will only be one HSR terminal in Hong Kong at West Kowloon in the heart of the urban area. As there will be no intermediate station in suburban Hong Kong, suburban passengers will be forced to commute into the city (a 0.5hr trip by train), then backtrack into the suburbs on the HSR.

5. On the other end of the route, New Guangzhou Station is a suburban station. Passengers wishing to go into central Guangzhou will need to take a 40-minute trip on the Guangzhou Metro.

6. Some say that the HSR will be a white elephant project (don`t people say that about all projects?)
 

urbanfan89

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#2
The project as it stands, stinks, quite honestly.

Long term plans call for a link between the HSR tunnel and Luohu. This means that the time to get from West Kowloon to the existing Guangzhou station will be almost as short as to Shibi. It isn't worth spending spending billions to shave a few minutes off travel times.

The costs could be driven down by using as much of the existing rail infrastructure (the West Rail tunnel and Airport Express corridor) as feasible. Some tunnelling may be needed to avoid conflicts, though. A station should definitely be built at Kam Sheung Road to serve passengers in the New Territories. From then it is not far to the existing Shenzhen stations.
 

wyliepoon

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#3
http://www.thestandard.com.hk/news_detail.asp?pp_cat=30&art_id=89498&sid=25779236&con_type=1

$53.7b Express Rail Link puts economy on fast track

Scarlett Chiang

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hong Kong's economic prospects and links to the mainland went on a fast track - literally - when the green light was given yesterday for a showpiece but controversial rail project.

Work is expected to start before year's end on the SAR's 26-kilometer, underground section of the Hong Kong- Shenzhen-Guangzhou Express Rail Link after the Executive Council approved the project, though it will cost many billions of dollars more than envisaged by the time trains start rolling in 2016.

Still, job vacancy notices will be posted almost immediately for 5,500 workers needed for construction. And there will be plenty more jobs when the route is ready: 10,000 openings on the railway and in related activities, according to a government official.

The 140km route between the Hong Kong terminus at West Kowloon and Shibi in Guangzhou, which has stops at Futian, Longhua and Humen, also opens the way to other major cities and by extension to the nation's heartland in double-quick time. For Hong Kong will be in the mainland's 16,000km high-speed network.

Besides the journey time between Hong Kong and Guangzhou being cut to 48 minutes from about one hour and 40 minutes, trains running at average speeds of 300 kilometers per hour will deliver passengers from West Kowloon to Xiamen in four hours, Shanghai in eight and Beijing in 10. Timetables like those had officials talking excitedly yesterday of how Hong Kong will gain more advantages as a vibrant financial and commercial hub.

But the link will cost taxpayers HK$53.7 billion, and there will be an additional outlay of HK$11.5 billion for non-rail works, including access roads and landscaping. That compares with HK$35.4 billion figured last year.

Despite the massive outlay, fares should be slightly less than they are now on through trains, with the ride to Shenzhen costing HK$45-HK$49, Dongguan HK$131 and Guangzhou HK$180. The current fare to Guangzhou is between HK$190 and HK$210.

A spokesman for the Transport and Housing Bureau said around 99,000 passengers are expected daily when the line is completed in 2016. "We expect patronage of the MTR's through trains [from Hung Hom] to drop 6.6 percent due to the competition from the new rail," he added. "In the long term, the MTR will cut the through train, and we hope this will allow it to concentrate on local services."

Current planning is for 90 trains daily to Shenzhen and 24 to Guangzhou.

Secretary for Transport and Housing Eva Cheng Yu-wah said the express service will benefit Hong Kong and so the project cannot be held back.

There had been thoughts that protests from residents of the village of Choi Yuen Chuen, near Yuen Long, might slow progress, but that issue was buried yesterday. Villagers will be moved to make way for an emergency station, and Cheng said the government is setting aside HK$80 million for compensation.

On the higher cost of the project, the spokesman said it is due to a change of alignment on the route, a larger tunnel and an increase in the size of the West Kowloon station. Still, he noted, the Hong Kong terminus will be close to major commercial, retail, hotel and residential districts as well as the still- to-be built West Kowloon cultural district. Also, "with the new rail we can expect more tourists from the mainland. They will bring HK$3 billion to Hong Kong just for their own consumption."

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http://www.thestandard.com.hk/news_...6&sid=25774489&con_type=1&d_str=20091021&fc=4

$600,000 railway payouts prompt rethink by some

Scarlett Chiang

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Even after the Executive Council gave the green light to the controversial rail link, some Choi Yuen Tsuen villagers insisted they will not make way for the line despite a substantial increase in their compensation package.

Others shouted slogans and stormed off before the meeting got under way.

However, there were clear signs offers - of as much as HK$630,000 in some cases - were inspiring second thoughts among some of the 150 families who will have to move out of the village, which is set to become an emergency station for the Hong Kong-Guangzhou Express Rail Link.

Under the new package, compensation for landowners has been raised from HK$219 to HK$526 per square foot, an increase of 140 percent.

Those who have lived in the area for more than 10 years may get an allowance of HK$600,000 or HK$500,000 plus the option to buy a cheaper flat in the New Territories under the Home Ownership Scheme.

Those who have lived in the village for less than 10 years will receive priority if they seek rehousing in public estates.

All affected villagers will be in line for removal allowances ranging from HK$3,000 to HK$10,000.

A Transport and Housing Bureau spokesman said this is the final offer and there will be no further increases.

"This is the best we can do," the spokesman said.

"We hope that the project can go ahead on schedule as it is huge and important to Hong Kong."

Villagers will need to register with the Lands Department by the end of January to be eligible for the new package. Those who fail to do so will only be offered the previous rates.

Choi Yuen Tsuen Concern Group chairwoman Ko Chun-heung said villagers will not leave their homes no matter what.

"Choi Yuen Tsuen is our home and where our roots are. We will not give up our homes. We will live there until the day we leave this world," Ko said.

Villagers would be willing to negotiate only if they are allowed to return to the site after the line is built.

However, some villagers confessed they are mulling the new payout.

"The compensation has been raised from HK$130,000 to HK$600,000. Frankly, it is very attractive ... I need to discuss this thoroughly with my family," one said.
 

wyliepoon

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http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/cee57b52-01aa-11df-b8cb-00144feabdc0.html

Hong Kong anti-rail protest gathers steam

By Tom Mitchell and Andy Ho in Hong Kong

Published: January 15 2010 08:51 | Last updated: January 15 2010 08:51

It began as a simple dispute over a scheme to drive an $8.6bn rail line through a small village near Hong Kong’s border with mainland China. But the government’s planned compulsory purchase of land for the scheme has spawned a host of unintended consequences, including the rejuvenation of the territory’s flagging democracy movement.

Thousands of protesters will converge on Hong Kong’s historic legislature building this weekend, cheering on a band of outnumbered but determined opposition lawmakers. The latter are attempting to delay a financing vote, which if held would be carried comfortably by the body’s pro-government majority.

“My family has deep feelings for this place,” said villager Ko Chun-hung, whose family has lived in Tsoi Yuen for more than 50 years. “The lifestyle is something that money can’t buy.” In the densely populated city of 7m, Tsoi Yuen’s residents enjoy the rarity of spacious homes and tend their own vegetable plots.

On January 8 the project’s opponents, led by the pro-democracy Civic party and the League of Social Democrats, staved off defeat by filibustering a six-hour session with repeated questions to government officials. To achieve the same result at the end of a two-day hearing this weekend, they are threatening to enter up to 30 amendments for discussion.

Their procedural victory last week inspired a rapturous rally outside the chamber, where organisers said 8,000 protesters from all walks of life had gathered. While police put the crowd at just 1,300, its enthusiasm was contagious. Some of the participants broke down in tears as ceremonial drums sounded a victory beat.

Opponents are optimistic they can draw an even bigger crowd to this weekend’s “anti high-speed rail” festival. Their success to date has inspired a new generation of 20-something activists, dubbed the “post-80” group in a reference to their year of birth. They say the plans to bury Tsoi Yuen village reflect the arrogance of an unelected government.

“There was a lack of consultation and discussion,” says Ho Fung-lun, one of six young hunger-strikers taking part in a five-day fast outside the legislature. “Personally I feel that Hong Kong does not need to develop so quickly.”

Exasperated officials, backed by industry and business interests including a “post-50” group of engineering professionals, argue that the movement is an over-reaction and blind to the greater public good.

“I respect the youngsters, but it may not be the best time to talk to them when they are highly agitated,” Donald Tsang, Hong Kong’s chief executive, told legislators on Thursday. “Mainstream opinion is that the rail should get the go-ahead as soon as possible.”

The enthusiasm with which some post-80 activists have rushed police barricades has given them a reputation as radicals, but some disagree. “I think they are marvellous and I wouldn’t call them radical,” says Ching Cheong, a former activist turned journalist who spent three years in a Chinese prison on vague espionage charges. “Every generation has its vanguard.”

The 26km express rail link is intended to complement China’s roll-out of its own national high-speed network, which will be the world’s fastest. The first long-distance service, covering 1,100km from the southern city of Guangzhou to central Wuhan in just three hours, began last month with little fanfare.

The contrasting controversy in free-wheeling Hong Kong, one of only two “special administrative regions” where civil and media freedoms are protected, will also frustrate Chinese government officials. Their repeated entreaties to put “economics” ahead of “politics” and resolve “deep-rooted conflicts” have fallen on deaf ears. “No democracy no livelihood,” the Civic party’s Alan Leong told the jubilant crowd last week.

In 2007, Mr Leong challenged Mr Tsang in a quixotic election bid that the lawmaker said was intended to demonstrate the absurdity of the territory’s “small-circle” elections. Mr Tsang was the overwhelming preference of an 800-member “election committee” dominated by pro-Beijing business and professional elites.

The Chinese government’s refusal to countenance direct elections for the chief executive until 2017 at the earliest, compounded by fears that nomination hurdles will be introduced to rule out pro-democracy candidates, is one of the protesters’ main complaints.

They also object to the reservation of half of the legislature’s 60 seats for largely pro-Beijing business sectors, or “functional constituencies”, which will be maintained until at least 2020. Most functional constituency representatives support the rail project.

In an attempt to force a faster pace of reform, five Civic party and League of Social Democrat legislators will resign their seats on January 27 and run again in the resulting by-elections, which they say will constitute a “referendum” on democracy. The controversial move is not supported by Hong Kong’s largest pro-democracy force, the Democratic party, which sees the referendum initiative as electoral suicide.

Arguing that desperate times require desperate measures, the Civic party and the League of Social Democrats are determined to press ahead. The surprising strength of the anti-rail movement has given them hope that momentum for reform is gathering.
 

wyliepoon

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#5
http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iwTZArioK09KOYbl8amEqKt4J2mg

Activists scuffle with police over Hong Kong rail project

(AFP) – 12 hours ago

HONG KONG — More than 1,000 protesters staged a sit-in outside Hong Kong's Legislative Council late Saturday after lawmakers approved a controversial 8.6-billion-dollar high-speed railway project.

The group surrounded the council building and refused to let transport chief Eva Cheng and other government officials leave after lawmakers voted in favour of the project at the end of an eight-hour meeting.

"Withdraw the proposal. Eva Cheng, shame on you!" the protesters, mostly students and young professionals, chanted as hundreds of policemen looked on.

Cheng was in her car in the council's carpark for about an hour before she was forced to return to the building, with protesters refusing to leave.

"Nobody can represent our voice. So we came here tonight to make our voice heard," Henry Lam, 24, told AFP.

Police earlier used pepper spray on some of the protesters as they tried to break through a barricade.

The council meeting was the third held to discuss funding approval for the project, which will link Hong Kong and Guangzhou, capital of neighbouring Guangdong province.

The Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Rail Link will form part of China's national high-speed rail network and allow people to travel from Hong Kong to Guangzhou in 48 minutes, just under half the current duration of the journey.

Officials say the project is important for fostering economic ties between Hong Kong and major cities on the Chinese mainland and hope construction will be completed by around 2015.

"The project has been through a 10-year consultation... It is an important investment," Cheng said after the meeting.

Pro-democracy legislators tried to delay the decision, saying the public had not been properly consulted and that the scheme was over-priced.

They also said it would benefit only developers while forcing villagers along the route to relocate.

Protesters said the project received the green light only because the election system allows the majority of the Legislative Council seats to be filled by pro-government politicians.

At present, only half of Hong Kong's legislature is directly elected while a largely pro-Beijing committee effectively controls the selection of the remainder and appoints the city's chief executive.

More than 1,000 protesters staged a sit-in outside the official residence of Hong Kong's Chief Executive Donald Tsang late Friday to urge the government to drop the project.