CENTRAL WATERFRONT OBSERVATION WHEEL
The Hong Kong Government's Lands Department has awarded a contract for the setting up, operation and management of a London Eye-style Ferris wheel in front of Central Piers 9 & 10 on the Hong Kong Island to Swiss AEX Holding Limited. The contract is for an initial three year period at a monthly rent of HK$825,000, followed by quarterly extensions thereafter. Installation and transportation costs are estimated at HK$95 million. The project site covers about 9,620 square-metres and the wheel, which will be about 60-metres diameter, will have 42 gondolas each holding 8 to 10 passengers and the ride will last 15 to 20 minutes. A soft launch was expected in September 2014 but the project is believed to be about one month behind schedule owing to owing to bad weather. The wheel is expected to attract between 2,000 and 4,000 riders a day. A fare of HK$100 for adults, HK$70 for children and HK$50 for those eligible for special discounts has been indicated. Swiss AEX Holding Ltd already operates the Asiatique Sky Giant Wheel in Bangkok and the Hong Kong wheel has been designed by Dutch Wheels of the Netherlands which also designed the Bangkok wheel.
The observation wheel is to be located on land between Central Piers 9 and 10
FORMER FANLING MAGISTRACY
The two-storey Former Fanling Magistracy, located on Jockey Club Road, was built in 1960 and began operation in 1961. After the Government introduced new legislation to extend the civil jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the District Court to the rapidly growing and developing New Territories it was the first magistracy to be set up in the New Territories and served the Northern District. By 1996, the population of this district had increased by about 300% to 516,500 and although additional buildings had been built on the site, the Former Magistracy lacked essential support facilities such as public witness rooms, public consultation rooms, separate facilities for the media and lawyers, facilities for people with disabilities and central air conditioning for the public waiting areas. There were also inadequate interview rooms in the custodial area for litigants to discuss their cases with their legal representatives. The Former Magistracy was considered unsuitable to meet its needs and a new, more spacious magistracy building was completed in 2002. Since then, the Former Fanling Magistracy has been closed and left vacant apart from being rented out on short-term tenancy for film shooting. The site comprises five buildings, namely the Former Fanling Magistracy built 1960, the Annex Court Building at the northwest, built in 1983, the Duty Lawyers’ Office, built in about1997 and two small associated blocks for building services facilities at the west.
The Government invited applications from interested parties under its "Revitalising Historic Buildings Through Partnership Scheme” and in February 2013 it was announced that the site will go to the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, who will partner with the University of Hong Kong to offer leadership training for students and young executives. The project is expected to be completed in 2016.
The Former Fanling Magistracy, which closed in 2002, is to become a youth leadership training centre
BRIDGES STREET MARKET REVITALISATION (HONG KONG NEWS-EXPO)
The Hong Kong Government's Advisory Committee on the Revitalisation of Historic Buildings, announced in February 2013 that Bridges Street Market, a Grade 3 Government-owned historic building is to be revitalised under the Hong Kong Government's "Revitalising Historic Buildings Through Partnership Scheme". The scheme, which has been in operation since February 2008 and seeks to strike a balance between sustainable development and heritage conservation through adaptive re-use of historic government buildings by partnership with non-profit organisations (NPO's), has already seen the selection of six NPO's to revitalise Old Tai O Police Station, Fong Yuen Study Hall, the Former Lai Chi Kok Hospital, Lui Seng Chun, Mei Ho House at Sham Shui Po, the Former North Kowloon Magistracy, the Blue House Cluster in Wan Chai and the Stone Houses in Kowloon City.
The two-storey wet market at 2 Bridges Street, Sheung Wan was built in 1953 and covers a site area of about 640 square-metres with a floor area of about 950 square-metres. It will become a media museum operated by the Journalism Education Foundation. The museum, which will be known as the Hong Kong News-Expo will promote liberal arts education, including media education groups, experimental studios and workshops. It will also allow visitors to practice being a news anchor on camera and will display the history of local newspapers which date back to the 1850's. The museum is expected to open in 2016 and will have an annual sponsorship of HK$2.5 million from Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust
Bridges Street Market will become "Hong Kong News-Expo" in 2016
KAI TAK NULLAH IMPROVEMENT AND BEAUTIFICATION WORKS
The Kai Tak River is to be developed into a leisure and tourist hub linking up districts in Kowloon East including Kowloon City, Wong Tai Sin and San Po Kong. The project, which was announced in March 2012, follows public consultations initiated by the Drainage Services Department in 2010 and 2011 and consultations with Wong Tai Sin District Council and related organisations regarding the construction design, beautification works and conservation. The existing nullah is 2.4km in length and runs from Po Kong Village Road, along Choi Hung Road, past Tung Tau Estate and San Po Kong and into Kai Tak Development Area before discharging into the Victoria Harbour. The nullah is one of the major flood relief drainage channels in East Kowloon area.
The project will be undertaken in three stages. The first stage is mainly to reconstruct and rehabilitate an approximately 600-metre-long upstream section of the Kai Tak River from Po Kong Village Road to Tung Kwong Road. The works are scheduled for completion in 2017 and the estimated cost is about HK$1.6 billion. The project will improve the river's drainage capacity through deepening the river, constructing underground box culverts, and relocating water mains and sewers. Also, the leisure space and landscape beautification facilities will be upgraded, turning the river into an attractive green river corridor. Historic monuments along the river will be preserved. Improvement works for the mid- and lower-stream sections of the river will begin in 2013. In July 2013 tenders were invited for reconstruction and rehabilitation of a 500-metre stretch of the river from Tung Kwong Road to Prince Edward Road East with work scheduled to commence in December 2013 with completion in June 2017. The whole project is expected to be completed in 2018.
The improvement works will be carried out in line with the Kai Tai Development Area Project with an emphasis being placed on the landscaping and beautification works. The new river corridor is intended to become a must-see leisure attraction, offering another venue for recreation, entertainment, education, community art creation and more. The improved river is projected to be a unique urban landscape axis merging the surrounding old districts with new developments in the Kai Tak Development Area.
For more information see;
The Kai Tak River is set to become a leisure and tourist hub
HAW PAR MANSION REVITALISATION (HAW PAR MUSIC FARM)
Haw Par Mansion was the family home of Aw Boon-haw, who along with his brother Aw Boon-par, inherited his father’s herbal medicine business and developed the famous “Tiger Balm Ointment”. Following the relocation of the company headquarters to Singapore in 1926, the Aws gradually set up medicine factories in the 1930’s and distributed the product throughout the world. Haw Boon Mansion and the adjacent Tiger Balm Garden were built between 1933 and 1935 by Aw Boon-haw, who also built family homes in Fujian and Singapore. Haw Par Mansion was considered the finest of the three homes. Tiger Balm Garden was designed by Aw Boon Haw to publicise Tiger Balm products, provide public open space and educate Hong Kong Chinese about their cultural identity. The famous garish plaster statues in the garden's Eighteen Levels of Hell, featured characters in gruesome depictions of hell from traditional Chinese mythology and Buddhist beliefs and the garden, which also featured a seven-story pagoda, became one of Hong Kong’s most popular parks with both locals and tourists. Aw died in 1954 and in 1998 his heir, former newspaper tycoon Sally Aw Sian, sold the entire site to Cheung Kong (Holdings) Ltd for property development. The garden closed to the public in 1998 and was subsequently demolished in 2002 and is now the site of a luxury apartment development, The Legend. However, as part of the agreement with Cheung Kong, the mansion survived and was passed to the government with that part of the redevelopment is be preserved for cultural and community use.
Corner "turret" of dining room and entrance and steps to private garden. The mansion will become "Haw Par Music Farm", a music school operated by a charity foundation.
There will be free public tours of the main lobby and garden when it opens in 2017
The Mansion, located at 15A Tai Hang Road, Jardine’s Lookout, was built in a mixture of Chinese and Western architectural style and is an excellent example of the mansions of the 1920’s and 30’s. The design is roughly symmetrical with the adoption of porches, bay windows and fireplaces. Internally there are beautiful painted glass windows from Italy, carvings and mouldings gilded with gold, and murals of Indian and Burmese influence. The Mansion is basically a reinforced concrete frame structure with external and internal walls of red brickwork, the majority of which are Shanghai rendering, apart from some granite-faced materials around the main entrance. There is a roof terrace with penthouse and, in front of the Mansion is a private garden, laid out in formal “parterre” style of a French garden. It has a central fountain, free-form rock garden, pavilion and corner tower with spiral staircase leading to the public access road below.
Stained glass moon window in the ground floor sitting room will be preserved
The Mansion has been vacant for many years and the government failed to find a use for the building although there were several proposals including converting it into a wine centre, a banqueting venue and a restaurant. The site, which covers an area of about 2000 square-meters was rezoned from “cultural and community” to conservation related commercial use by the Town Planning Board prompting concerns about its future use. During October and November 2010 a number of public open-days were held at which public opinion was invited as to the future use of the Mansion. The revitalisation project, being undertaken by the Commissioner for Heritage’s Office Development Bureau, stipulated that the site has potential for commercial use but that no new buildings must be constructed on the site and the future operator, to be decided by open tender, must provide adequate public access to the Mansion for appreciation of its historic and cultural values. The cost of restoring the Mansion is estimated as being at least HK$120 million.
The tender invitation process was launched in January 2011 but only one bid was received which did not meet some of the mandatory tender requirements. In May 2011, the Development Bureau initiated a second round of tendering, on the same basis as the original tender invitation but again only one bid was received, believed to be from an organisation intending to promote Chinese culture, which also did not meet the tender requirements. The tendering process was subsequently cancelled and, in October 2011, The Commissioner for Heritage's Office of the Development Bureau invited proposals from non-profit making organisations to revitalise the mansion, along with three other historic buildings, King Yin Lei on Stubbs Road, Bridges Street Market and the Former Fanling Magistracy under the Revitalising Historic Buildings Through Partnership Scheme. In February 2013 it was announced that the mansion will go to Aw Boon Haw Foundation, a charity music foundation, founded by the mansions former owner Sally Aw Sian and will be renamed Haw Par Music Farm. It will be a music school, providing the public with cheaper music lessons and will collaborate with the Chinese Orchestra to create a music course with Chinese and Western music characteristics. The main lobby and the garden will be preserved for free public tours. Haw Par Music Farm is expected to open in 2017.
SECOND MID-LEVELS ESCALATORS
Following a study by a consultant to the Central and Western District Council into the best route for a second Mid-Levels escalator, proposals have been put forward for a system which would connect to new and existing footbridges, upgraded pavements and follow the section of Pound Lane between Hollywood Road and Bonham Road with eight flights of covered escalators. The plan has been suggested to mitigate traffic impact following an anticipated relaxation of building restrictions when the MTR West Island Line opens in 2014. As well as benefiting local residents, particularly the elderly, It is also expected that the escalator system would improve access to local schools, Tung Wah Hospital and the future MTR station on Bonham Road. The estimated cost of the system is HK$200 million and a HK$2 million consultation was planned to be being carried out. However, a small number of Sheung Wan residents have formed the Pound Lane Concern Group, which in July 2012, called for the consulation to be halted. The group expressed reservations that the project is a poor investement of taxpayers money and that the government should consider lower-cost and more environmentally friendly alternatives such as a lift or a footbridge. The public consulation was subsequently put forward in July 2013 for a period of two months. An earlier proposal for an escalator route along the famous Ladder Street was rejected following public objections.
The second Mid-Levels escalator system would travel the full length of Pound Lane, a section of which is seen above
In the meantime an escalator system costing HK$61 million, running along Centre Street between Third Street and Bonham Road at Sai Ying Pun, partially opened in early 2013. See "WHAT'S NEW" for more details.
Proposals for hillside escalator links are also being considered at various other locations including Wong Tai Sin, Kwai Tsing and Eastern Districts following a commitment in the former Chief Executive's 2008-2009 Policy Address. Feasiblity studies and technical assessments of the top 10 ranked proposals are being carried and, as at January 2013, a new pedestrian escalator link at Tsz Wan Shan in Wong Tai Sin is under construction.
CENTRAL MARKET REVITALISATION
The historic Central Market which closed in 2003 is to be preserved and will become a "Green Oasis" in Central.
Central Market before commencement of the preservation project
The market was constructed in 1938 in Streamline Moderne style as the Canton Bazaar and its design was based on London County Council by-laws of 1915. It replaced previous markets dating back to 1858 and 1895 and at one time was largest meat market in Southeast Asia. The market which is located between Queens Road Central and Des Voeux Road Central is a 15,000 square metre four-storey concrete building and incorporates a walkway corridor leading to the Central - Mid-Levels Escalators. HK$500 million was originally expected to be invested by the Urban Renewal Authority in the refurbishment but delays to the project are likely to see this budget revised. Around half the space being occupied by shops and a courtyard, restaurants and rooftop garden will be included in the redevelopment.
The building was repainted externally in early 2010 reflecting the theme of the plans to create a "Green Oasis" before being again redecorated externally in late-2012 (see below)
An advisory committee, Central Oasis Advisory Committee, has been formed and met for the first time in December 2009 under the chairmanship of David Lung Ping-yee, a retired professor of architecture. The committee comprises district councillors, professionals and conservationists and will initiate a public consultation on operation and uses for the market. The government's Secretary for Development has already indicated that each floor of the market will have a different theme with possible uses being a 24-hour bookshop and arts square on the ground floor, restaurants on the second floor and a gym on the third floor. The first public consulatation was carried out in early 2010, involving some 6,000 people including tourists, and the overwhelming view was expressed that there is no desire amongst the public for the market to be turned into another high-end shopping mall. The government has already made a pledge that the revitalisation will result in a "market for the people" and will avoid expensive restaurants and boutiques that have featured in other urban renewal projects and instead will provide affordable dining facilities, open space for general and public workers in Central and quality community facilities. Plans for the building were lost in the second world war and preliminary results from a structural survey indicate that work will be necessary to bring the building up to current standards. Strengthening work would be needed to support an area of greenery on the buildings and the Urban Renewal Authority has indicated it is prepared for the original budget estimate to be exceeded to achieve the right results. Public toilets at the entrance to the market, notorious for their foul smell, will be demolished.
The arcade in the walkway adjacent to the market leading to the Central-Mid-Levels escalator link has already been transformed into green space with plants and seating.
Four design plans were chosen and shown in public exhibitions for consultation in April 2011 with tenders being invited in mid-2011. AGC Design, who designed the Avenue of Stars in Tsim Sha Tsui was chosen as designer in November 2011, having originally put forward an "Urban Floating Oasis" design which featured a swimming pool. However, it is unlikely that the swimming pool, which may require building strengthening work, will feature in the final design which will be based on public opinion. ACG Design have teamed up with architectural designer Arata Isozaki from Japan and Wasa, a specialist reinforced concrete design practice from America.
Other design plans were submitted by Aedas, who designed the future West Kowloon terminus for the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong high-speed railway and proposed to retain key Bauhaus characteristics of the building including a large market area. British-based TFP Farrells whose design would have retained the building's original layout and included a reinstated market on the second floor, an open-air courtyard and a mosaic of coloured glazing. Barrie Ho-Chow-lai's "Urban Cocoon" design would have retained the shell, the two grand staircases and some market stalls but about 60% of the internal structures would have been demolished to widen the atrium and allow more natural light into the building.
In late-2012 the exterior of the building was transformed from its previous "green oasis" theme and redecorated with illustrations by three local comic artists, Lee Wai-chun, Lee Chi-ching and Wong Chiu-tat in styles which reflect the harmonious and relaxing atmosphere the revitalised market is intended to become.
A judicial review and appeal proceedings relating to the Government's rezoning plan for the building delayed finalisation of the URA's planning application which was submitted to the Town Planning Board in mid-2013. In order to meet the requirement that the second floor passageway which links mid-levels escalators with the harbourfront in Central remains open at all times the work has been planned in two phases. Subject to approval it is anticipated that the first phase of the project will be completed in 2017-18, with the whole project being completed in 2019-20, some 2-3 years behind original expectations. It is also expected that the project cost of HK$500 million, estimated in 2009, will increase.
One of the illustrations by local comic artists which has adorened the exterior of the market
The second floor passageway linking the market with Central - Mid-Levels escalator link has already been transformed into a pleasant space with seating known as "Oasis Gallery", which has accommodated over 80 temporary exhibitions since 2010. Nine shops in this arcade were served with eviction notices in August 2011 to vacate their premises for emergency repair works to be carried out but eight have since signed monthly lease extensions allowing them to remain in the arcade for the time being
LEE TUNG STREET (WEDDING CARD STREET) PROJECT
Hopewell Holdings, in a consortium with Sino Land has won an Urban Renewal Authority bid to transform an 88,500 square-foot area in Wan Chai into a themed shopping mall and 1275 unit luxury residential development "The Avenue", whilst preserving its cultural heritage as an attraction to locals and tourists. The Lee Tung Street" / McGregor Street Project will include "Wedding City" themed shops and a wedding traditions and culture gallery in three conserved historic buildings. However the name "Lee Tung Street" will disappear and the shopping precinct will be named "Avenue Walk" or "Lane of Double Happiness" in Chinese. The precinct will be contain three-storey tenements with 70 shops modelled on three nearby historic tenements. About half the shops will be wedding-related. Preliminary work for the project began in late 2009, with the first residential units expected to be available in the third quarter of 2013 and the whole development being completed in late 2014 or early 2015. The total cost of the project is expected to be about HK$8 billion. Hopewell Holdings already has a large portfolio of properties in Wan Chai including Hopewell Centre and the Hopewell Centre II project (see below).
Hopewell Holdings "The Avenue", 1275-unit residential development, part of the Hopewell II / Lee Tung Street redevelopment, seen under construction in early 2014
MTR SOUTH ISLAND LINE (EAST)
Approval for preliminary planning and design of the proposed MTR South Island Line (East) was granted in December 2007 and public consulatations were held in March and September 2008. Detailed design commenced in July 2009 and the scheme was formally authorised under the Railways Ordinance in November 2010. Construction commenced in mid-2011 with completion expected in 2015, at an estimated cost of HK$12.4 billion with about half the cost being met by the government. The 7km line will run from Admiralty Station to Ap Lei Chau via a tunnel to Nam Fung Road in Aberdeen then along a 2km elevated viaduct from Aberdeen Tunnel Toll Plaza via Wong Chuk Hang and across the Aberdeen Channel to Lei Tung Estate on Ap Lei Chau. The line will be a "medium-capacity" system capable of carrying up to 20,000 passengers per hour in each direction and will serve both residents of the south side of Hong Kong Island and tourists travelling from existing and future attractions. It is also hoped that the new line will help relieve congestion at the Aberdeen Tunnel by encouraging passengers to transfer from road to rail. Admiralty Station will be an interchange station with the Tsuen Wan Line for cross-harbour destinations and there will be four other stations on the line at Ocean Park, Wong Chuk Hang, Lei Tung Estate (Ap Lei Chau) and South Horizons (Ap Lei Chau). Trains will operate at about 2-minute frequency and journey times will take 9 minutes from South Horizons to Admiralty, 4 minutes from Ocean Park to Admiralty and 10 minutes from Ocean Park to Tsim Sha Tsui (with interchange at Admiralty). Construction is expected to generate about 1,500,000 cubic metres of excavated materials it is proposed to establish two barging points for handling excavated waste at Lee Nam Road, Ap Lei Chau and Telegraph Bay. Design plans include a 12,000 square-metre green belt above a southside nullah including a pet park. Provision has been made in the plans for the South Island (East) to interchange with the future South Island (West) at Wong Chuk Hang but South Island (West) which would link up with the West Island Line at Hong Kong University is not a confirmed project at this stage.
MTR South Island Line (East) under construction near Ocean Park at Wong Chuk Hang, January 2014
MTR has confirmed that operation of the line will be fully automatic with driverless trains. The only other line in Hong Kong to utilise driverless, fully automatic trains is the Disneyland Resort Line which opened in 2005. Trains have been ordered from Chinese manufacturer Changchun Railway Vehicles, a subsidiary of state-owned Chinese National Railways, but design is by MBD Design of France, which is also responsible for the design of Hong Kong's newly renovated trams. Trains will be 3-car sets, much shorter than trains on other lines, which are mostly 8-car sets, and each train will have a capacity of about 700 passengers.
The South Island Line will branch from the existing Island Line at Admiralty and extend to South Horizons on Ap Lei Chau.
The first major milestone of construction was achieved in December 2013 with structural completion of Ocean Park Station.
MTR KWUN TONG LINE EXTENSION
MTR Corporation (MTRCL) is constructing a 2.6km extension of the existing MTR Kwun Tong Line from Yau Ma Tei Station to a new station at Whampoa with an intermediate new station at Ho Man Tin. Passengers will be able to interchange at Ho Man Tin for the future Sha Tin to Central Link (see below). Public consultation in collaboration with Kowloon City District Council was conducted in two rounds in 2008 and 2009 and roving exhibitions and public forums were held to collect views and suggestions from the local community. The extension is expected to reduce road traffic in the Ho Man Tin and Whampoa areas and will allow passengers to reach Mong Kok from Whampoa and Ho Man Tin within five minutes compared to 25 minutes by road-based transport. The plan was gazetted under the Railways Ordinance (Cap 519) in November 2009 and following public consulations a number of amendments to the original plan were gazetted in June 2010. The scheme was formally authorised under the Railways Ordinance in November 2010. Construction began in mid-2011 with completion expected in 2015. Estimated cost of the project is HK$5.3 billion. Part of Ho Man Tin Station is being built in a rock cavern 30 metres underground and will have eight storeys with platforms and exits on different levels. It will eventually link the Kwun Tong Line with the Sha Tin to Central Link, which is due to open in 2018.
The Kwun Tong Line Extension will link with the Sha Tin to Central Link at Ho Man Tin
MTR WEST ISLAND LINE
On May 26th 2009 the Executive Council of the Hong Kong SAR Government gave approval for a government grant of HK$12.7 billion towards the estimated cost of HK$15.4 billion for construction of the MTR West Island Line with the balance to be met by MTR Corporation. The new line will be a 3km extension of the existing Island Line from its current western terminus at Sheung Wan to Kennedy Town with intermediate stations at Sai Ying Pun and The University of Hong Kong and will enable passengers to travel between Sheung Wan and Kennedy Town in eight minutes. The budget includes provision of lifts to street level at all stations, repositioning of some buildings along the route and preservation works to facades of some buildings and heritage features along the route. Construction commenced in August 2009 and it is anticipated that the line will open before the end of 2014.
In August 2010 construction work commenced on an HK$80 million upgrade of Sheung Wan MTR Station which is being converted from a terminus (Island Line) to an intermediate station on the extended line which will connect Sheung Wan to Kennedy Town. To suppress noise and vibration from blasting during tunnelling an innovative method of filling the construction shaft with water to a depth of 1.5 metres is being used. The 60 metre deep shaft is located in King George V Memorial Park above the future Sai Ying Pun MTR Station. When completed, the University of Hong Kong station will be the largest and deepest cave-style station on the railway network with a length of 250-metres and a total depth of 70-metres.
In November 2012, a major milestone in the project was reached when construction of the tunnel between Sheung Wan and Kennedy Town stations was completed, including a 650-metre overrun tunnel at Kennedy Town station to allow trains to turn back towards Chai Wan. However in May 2014 it was confirmed that difficulties in construction of one of the exits at Sai Ying Pung Station, owing to soft ground, may result in the station not being completed in time for the projected opening of the line in late 2014. The affected exit will not open until late 2015 but if construction work at the affected exits delays the opening of other exits trains may run through Sai Ying Pun Station without stopping or opening of the line may be delayed until the first quarter of 2015. To enable management of passenger flow, ventilation and evacuation at least three of the station's six exits must be open.
The West Island Line, due for completion in 2014 will extend the existing Island Line to Kennedy Town
CENTRAL - WAN CHAI SIX-LANE BYPASS
After having been first proposed in 1999 it was announced by the Hong Kong Government in May 2009 that construction of the Central to Wan Chai bypass road would commence before the end of the year. The HK$28 billion project provides for a 4.5km six-lane road from Rumsey Street flyover near Two IFC Tower via Admiralty, the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, the former Wan Chai Public Cargo Working Area, the portal of the Cross-Harbour Tunnel and Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter and linking up with the Island Eastern Corridor via a viaduct. Much of the road will be contained in a tunnel from near Two IFC Tower to Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter. The existing Wan Chai Ferry Pier will be demolished and replaced with a new pier in landscaped surroundings and incorporating public observation deck and helipad.
Progress on construction of the new Wan Chai Ferry Pier in early 2014. The new pier is substantially larger than the existing pier which will be demolished
The project has been controversial as it involves reclamation of about 12.7 hectares of Victoria Harbour and temporary reclamation of Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter and has been subject of legal action by the Society for Protection of the Harbour which resulted in the scale of the reclamation being reduced. The aim of the bypass is to relieve serious traffic congestion along Connaught Road Central, Harcourt Road Gloucester Road. Much of the land along the watefront is to be developed into a public promenade. The first section Construction commenced on 29th January 2010 and is expected to be completed in 2017. A series of roving exhibitions to display the various design options for the three ventilation buildings, vent shaft and administrative building is being held at various locations on Hong Kong Island between 29th July 2010 and 3rd September 2010. There has been opposition from some members of the Harbourfront Commission to the planned location of West Ventilation Building (WVB) in front of Two IFC as it is considered this may have adverse visual and environmental impact but in September 2010 the Administration announced that relocation of the WVB would not be feasible due to safety considerations, technical constraints and serious implications on the completion time of the project.
Construction of a tunnel, May 2011, on reclaimed land in front of Edinburgh Place, for the Central - Wan Chai Bypass
The first section of new road network serving the new bypass, Lung Wo Road opened on 23rd February 2010. Lung Wo Road will eventually extend from Man Cheung Street near Two IFC and Hong Kong Station in Central to Hung Hing Road near Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre and the section which has opened runs from Man Cheung Street past City Hall and Central Barracks to Tim Wa Avenue.
Picture taken in February 2012 shows the temporary diversion of Man Yiu Street, whilst construction of the Central - Wan Chai Bypass continues apace on either side
Construction work for the Central - Wan Chai bypass tunnel continues alongside Man Yiu Street, outside IFC Mall in early 2014
On January 18th 2011 the Highways Department signed a HK$4.02 billion contract with Chun Wo - CRGL - MBEC Joint Venture. The contract mainly includes the construction of a 300-metre-long tunnel at North Point and an approach road to the tunnel, modification of the section of Island Eastern Corridor (IEC) between Hing Fat Street and Po Leung Kuk Yu Lee Mo Fan Memorial School as well as the junction of Victoria Park Road and Hing Fat Street, and the demolition of Rumsey Street Flyover eastbound down ramp in Central. The contract also covers associated works, such as landscaped deck, noise barriers, noise semi-enclosures, road drainage and landscaping works. Construction work is expected to take about 90 months.
A 0.93-hectare site, which lies between City Hall, Central Barracks and the Lung Wo Road is planned by the Harbourfront Commission for public space with alfresco dining, green courtyards and three blocks not exceeding 20-metres high. Tenders for its development are expected to be invited by the end of 2011.
On 26th January 2011 the Ground Breaking Ceremony for the Causeway Bay (CWB) Typhoon Shelter Section of the tunnel was held. The contract sum of this section of the project is about HK$5.4 billion. The works mainly comprise the construction of a 750-metre section of the CWB tunnel between the ex-Wan Chai Public Cargo Working Area and the east breakwater of the Typhoon Shelter. To facilitate the tunnel construction works, the first stage of the relocation of boaters of the typhoon shelter was successfully completed.
In March 2013 a HK$4,792 million contract for construction of a 300-metre long section of twin box tunnel under the seabed of Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter and 150-metre long slip road tunnel beneath the existing Victoria Park Road and northern area of Victoria Park was awarded to China State Construction Engineering (HK). Work is expected to be completed in 2017.
In May 2013 tenders were invited for the tunnel buildings, systems and fittings including road paving, signage, cladding, landscape works, ventilation buildings and shafts, traffic control and surveillance systems and fire services systems. The works are expected to commence in February 2014 with completion in 2017.
In February 2014 a contract at a cost of about HK$3.182 billion was awarded to Leighton Joint Venture for the construction of tunnel buildings, the installation of route-wide tunnel electrical and mechanical works and traffic control and surveillance systems, and associated works for tunnel commissioning.
KOWLOON EAST (CBD2) AND NEW KAI TAK CRUISE TERMINAL
The Hong Kong Government confirmed in early 2009 it is to spend HK$100 billion to develop the site of the old Kai Tak airport, which closed in 1977, into a "city within a city" with its own international cruise terminal. Preliminary work commenced in July 2009 on the first phase of the three-phase project.
Phase 1, due for completion in 2013, includes 13,300 public housing flats, three schools, government office, about 2.6km of roads, 850-metres of berthing structures with 35-metre apron and 200 metre waterfront promenade. The housing estate will incorporate a 2.7 hectare green belt and energy-saving technology including a grid-connected solar energy system to supply 2% of energy in each block, LED lighting and a water-saving system. Paths and flower beds will be built using recycled construction materials, partially being obtained from the demolition of old public housing estates in the city and there also will be an electric car-charging system in the estate's car parks. There will also be an exhibition gallery detailing the history of the old Kai Tak airport. The original plans for the roads meant that the public would have no access to 80% of the waterfront but in May 2010 proposals were put forward for roads to be moved back from to allow the public open areas to enjoy by the waterfront.
Phase 2 is expected to be completed by 2016 and includes the second cruise terminal berth, underground streets connecting the development to Kowloon Tong and San Po Kong, heliport and Kai Tak MTR Station.
The final phase is due to be completed by 2021 includes a 45,000 seat stadium complex, sites for residential and commercial developments and metro park. There will also be a 80-hectare tourist hub, provisionally known as "Kai Tak Fantasy", encompassing the tip of the old runway, Kwun Tong ferry pier and typhoon shelter, which will reflect the aviation annd maritime history of the area. The final phase will include a HK$12 billion monorail system with 12 stops linking Kowloon Bay and Kwun Tong via Kai Tak as part of a plan to create a new district named Kowloon East which would become home to several government departments and city's second central business district. In January 2012 proposals were announced for the formation of the Kowloon East Development Office to help transform East Kowloon into the city's second central business district headed by a principal government town planner with government architect as deputy and 16 support staff in the planning, architectural, engineering and development departments. The office will initially be for one year tenure then subject to review.
Part of the abandoned Kai Tak airport site before development began
Eleven government departments are expected to move to the new district in 2014. The monorail, which may be completed by 2023, is expected to carry 200,000 passengers daily and operate a 2-minute service frequency. It would run along the waterfront, cruise terminal, Metro Park, Station Square and sports hub. However, transport experts have since challenged the government to consider alternative transport options to the monorail such as electric buses or trams which may be able to provide the same level of service at a fraction of the cost. The estimated cost, for example, of an electric bus route provided by KMB is HK$200 million to HK$400 million. Public consulations on the monorail scheme began in March 2012. An earlier study by the Civil and Engineering Development Department to investigate the feasibility of extending the proposed monorail to serve To Kwa Wan, Kowloon City and San Po Kong was rejected on the grounds of cost (an additional HK$4.2 billion), noise and visual impact on residential districts and technical difficulties. In March 2013, Veolia Transport, operator of Hong Kong Tramways indicated it would challenge the government plans for a monorail and put forward plans for a tram system costing HK$2.8 billion, less than a quarter of the cost of the proposed monorail system. The system would be built in two phases and have four routes. The first two routes connecting Ngau Tau Kok MTR station with the cruise terminal and Kai Tak's public housing area would be operational in 2018. The other two routes, linking the public housing area to the cruise terminal, and Lai Yip Street to Kwun Tong MTR station, would open in 2023. However, a public consultation which concluded in February 2014 favoured the elevated monorail system and it seems unlikely that the tram system will proceed since the road systems in Kowloon Bay and Kwun Tong are considered too congested for trams. Hong Kong Tramways has indicated that it will consider tendering for the operation and maintenance of the monorail system.
The cruise terminal building will have commercial, office and retail facilities and will be leased to a private operator with a tenancy of seven to ten years. The development will include five power sub-stations which will enable ships berthing at the cruise terminal access to an on-shore power supply as an alternative to keeping the ship's engines running whilst in port. The first sub-station is expected to be completed in mid-2012 and the sub-stations will also supply energy to government offices, the Sha-Tin to Central MTR link, district cooling systems and commercial and residential buildings. The eco-friendly district cooling system costing HK$1.67 million and covering 1.73 million square-metres is expected to cut electricity by 35% compared to traditional air conditioning systems. The existing Ocean Terminal cruise terminal at Tsim Sha Tsui is only able to accommodate ships of up to 50,000 tonnes displacement whereas the new terminal will be able to berth mega-vessels. The HK$350 million contract for the first stage of the infrastructure work has been awarded to Ove Arup & Partners Hong Kong with work commencing on 31st July 2009 and scheduled to take about 41 months. The Hong Kong Government is developing Kai Tak Cruise Terminal through two works contracts. The first one is the site formation works contract, which commenced on 23rd December 2009 with the scope of works comprising the construction of a sloping seawall of about 1100 metres and a 35-metre wide and 850-metre long apron area for berthing of cruise vessels of different sizes and capacities, as well as the dredging of about 1.38 million cubic metres of marine sediments to allow manoeuvring and berthing of mega cruise vessels. The cruise terminal building is intended to be iconic and highly functional and efficient to facilitate the operator to provide world-class services. On 8th May 2010 the design and build contract was awarded to French construction company Dragages 2010 and the building is expected to be completed in 2013, a year ahead of schedule It has been widely reported that Dragages have been working in association with British architect Lord Norman Foster's company Foster and Partners and that the design will be a curvaceous structure resembling a shark's open mouth facing the sea. Foster and Partners have already designed a number of iconic buildings in Hong Kong including the airport and HSBC building and are among the favourites to be awarded the design contract for the West Kowloon Cultural Centre.
In early March 2012 the tenancy for operating and managing the new cruise terminal was awarded to Worldwide Cruise Terminals Consortium (WCT). WCT is a joint venture of three companies, Worldwide Flight Services, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd and Neo Crown Ltd. Worldwide Flight Services already provides ground handling, air cargo and technical services at Hong Kong International Airport. Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd is one of the world's leading cruise companies and also has the experience in operating cruise terminals. The holding company of Neo Crown Ltd is Shun Tak Holdings Ltd, which has core businesses in property development, leasing and management, transportation, etc. The contract is for a ten-year period at a fixed rent of approximately HK$13 million. The Government will receive a percentage of the gross receipts of the operator as the variable rent, and the percentage of the gross receipts to be shared with the Government will increase as the gross receipts go up. The percentages of gross receipts that WCT will share with the Government range from 7.3 per cent to 34 per cent. There will be a mid-term review after five years to ensure service standards are being met.
In July 2010 the government's Harbourfront Commission suggested a review of the design of the planned road bridge across a 400-metre channel connecting the former airport runway and Kwun Tong. The design needs to allow for barges to pass underneath but is considered too large, restricting space for a future park on the runway. Alternatives such as a bridge which could be raised to allow passage of vessels or a pedestrian-only bridge are being considered. The location of the proposed helipad at the tip of the runway is also under review as commission members considered this should be accessible to the public and not fenced off for cross-border facilities. One suggestion is that the helipad be relocated to the rooftop of a 100-metre observation tower nearby but this would restrict use of the helipad to double-engine helicopters.
In March 2013, the cruise ship Celebrity Millennium carrying 2,158 passengers berthed at the uncompleted cruise terminal in a navigational, berthing and logistical trial, with tents being set up on the apron for luggage handling and passengers being transported to attractions in a fleet of coaches in the absence of public transport. The cruise terminal "soft-opens" in mid-June 2013 with the first berth completed in time for the arrival of "Mariner of the Seas" on 12th June. Immigration counters, waiting halls and connecting bridges have been completed but shops and restaurants will not open until the fourth quarter of 2013. The terminal has a 23,000 sq metre public roof garden with panoramic views and public exhibitions are planned to be held in the halls. The terminal will be capable of berthing the world's largest cruise vessel at 220,000 tonnes. The second berth will be available in 2014 to berth medium-sized cruise vessels and will begin to accommodate mega cruise vessels after the relocation of submarine gas mains. Pressure for a new cruise terminal increased after the world's second largest liner, the Queen Mary II was forced to berth at Kwai Chung container terminal and passengers were taken ashore by barge. Ocean Terminal will remain open after the new terminal has been built.
The first berth at Kai Tak Cruise Terminal opened in June 2013
On 7th June 2012, the Energizing Kowloon East Office (EKEO) was opened on Hoi Bun Road under an elevated section of the Kwun Tong Bypass. The office co-ordinates the work of government departments in implementing the Energizing Kowloon East Project and provides a link between government and public with the public over plans and ideas for the development. The EKEO has an information kiosk providing reference materials on "Energizing Kowloon East" and "Kai Tak Development". For more information see;
In October 2012 government sources confirmed suggestions that the plan for the 45,000 stadium may be abandoned in favour of additional housing, with a new stadium instead being developed at Sunny Bay on Lantau Island. This would enable the number of new homes at Kai Tak to be doubled to 70,000. However, this has provoked a strong reaction from the sporting community and no decision has yet been taken.
In November 2012, plans by the Water Sports Council (WSC) for a world-class water sports centre for dragon boats, rowing and canoeing, adjoining the runway at the old Kai Tak airport received backing from the Harbourfront Commission and the Home Affairs Bureau. The WSC is expected to make a formal application for the site, which may not become available until 2018 or 2019 owing to engineering going on in the vicinity, in connection with the Kowloon East and Kai Tak Development.
In January 2013, initiated by the Energizing Kowloon East Office, "Fly the Flyover01", an informal art and cultural venue for music, art and cultural events or exhibitions opened on previously fenced off land under the Kwun Tong Bypass. Basic facilities include a performing stage, dressing room, lighting installations and toilets.
A tourism and entertainment hub "Kai Tak Fantasy", covering an area of about 80-hectares at the tip of the former airport runway, Kwun Tong Ferry Pier Action Area and Kwun Tong Shelter, with a competition for creative thought and design excellence due to be launched by EKEO before the end of 2013.
Stage 4 Kai Tak North Apron Area Infrastructure Works commenced in mid-2013 with expected completion in 2016.
By August 2013 most of the Stage 1 Infrastructure works at the north apron area of the old airfield had been completed. They have included planting more than 158,000 trees and shrubs to beautify the environment, building new roads and footbridges, improving existing roads and pedestrian subways, and constructing public facilities. Trunk roads in the north apron area are to be lined with tall and stately autumn maple trees to create a boulevard effect. All the new streets in the area are specially named with the Chinese character "¨N" ("muk"), drawing inspiration from the revitalised Kai Tak River and echoing the trees theme.
In November 2013 the central government liason office became one of the first government offices to acquire space in Kowloon East when it paid HK$135 million for the 12,000 sq ft 22nd floor of the 25-storey Rykadam Capital Tower on Hoi Bun Road.
SHA TIN - CENTRAL RAIL LINK
Construction of a 17-kilometre rail link from Sha Tin to Central commenced in June 2012 with completion expected in 2020. The scheme was officially gazetted by the government on 27th November 2010. The MTR extension will provide a direct route between Ma On Shan and Sha Tin to Admiralty and Central and will also provide a link between East Kowloon and the Western New Territories via West Rail. There will be a major interchange station at Tai Wai where the Ma On Shan line currently branches from East Rail and there will be five other interchange stations. The line will include stations at Tai Wai, Hin Keng, Diamond Hill, Kai Tak, To Kwa Wan, Ma Tau Wai, Ho Man Tin, Hung Hom, Exhibition (northern Wan Chai) and Admiralty. The line is expected to carry 1.1 million passengers a day during its first year of operation. Many journey times will be substantially reduced, for example, journeys between Tai Wai and Diamond Hill and Hung Hom and Admiralty will each take just 5 minutes compared to journey times of 17 minutes on existing lines. The original estimated cost of the project, which was originally expected to have commenced in 2010, has increased from HK$37.4 billion to HK$79.8 billion following delays in announcing final plans which, in addition to a 30% increase in the cost of building materials include an additional station at Hin Keng, just north of Lion Rock Tunnel, revised alignment and a larger pedestrian network at Tsz Wan Shan where a station cannot be built. Government funding for the project was approved on 18th February 2011. Preliminary work began in 2011 and a Ground Breaking Ceremony to mark the commencement of construction was held on 22nd June 2012. Construction is being carried out in two phases with the Tai Wai to Hung Hom section expected to be completed in 2018 and the cross-harbour Hung Hom to Admiralty section in 2020. Construction work includes a temporary reclamation area of about 0.7 hectares at Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter. The project is expected to create about 15,000 jobs during the construction phase. During excavation at the site of the future To Kwa Wan Station in late 2013, archaeological relics including a Song dynasty well were discovered which could lead to some delay in completion of the project. The well is to be preserved in situ but construction work in the vicinity of the find has been halted to allow archaeologists more time to investigate other relics and a delay of at least five months is anticipated. The line will be operated by MTR on a concessionary basis with the government funding construction and MTR being responsible for design and planning. A 50-year service concession with the government receiving service-concession payments of about HK$1.76 billion per annum from MTR.
CENTRAL POLICE STATION CONSERVATION PROJECT
The disused Central Police Station on Hollywood Road
Rocco Design Architects were appointed in March 2009 by Hong Kong Jockey Club to oversee the conservation and revitalisation of Central Police Station on Hollywood Road. The four-storey colonial police station dating back to 1864 with its distinctive Doric columns and grey/blue colour scheme was used as Hong Kong Island Regional Police Headquarters and Central District Police Headquarters until 2004. The project which includes the stable blocks and adjacent Victoria Prison aims to transform the police station into a heritage, arts, cultural and tourist hub with the Jockey Club funding the HK$1.8 billion capital cost through the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust (HKJCCT). The initial design by Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron was controversial and plans to construct a 160-metre tower on the site were abandoned in 2008 following public opposition. A height limit of 77-metres was proposed by a group of non-governmental organistations including heritage concern groups and green groups but was rejected by the Town Planning Board in November 2009. Following a six-month public consulation the revised design was finally unveiled in October 2010. The revised design featuring the CPS Compound as a contemporary arts hub includes the addition of the Old Bailey Wing to house gallery spaces and the Arbuthnot Wing to house a multi-purpose venue and central plant. In response to public views and concerns the height and the bulk of the proposed new structures have been substantially reduced and the F Hall, a post-war building in the compound, will also be preserved. The new structures are modest and distinct and comply fully with the 80 mPD (metres above the Hong Kong Principal Datum) building height restriction stipulated for the site in the draft Sai Ying Pun and Sheung Wan Outline Zoning Plan. Just over one-third of the total floor area of 25,959 square metres will be allocated to arts and culture, including galleries, a library, an art archive and office space for arts groups. Restaurants, cafes and shops will take up 27 per cent of space. The remainder of the site will be for public use and vegetation. However, concerns have been expressed over plans to dig a tunnel to link the buildings on the site which may risk damage to underground archaeological relics. An archaeological survey-cum-excavation, in areas that would be affected by the works commenced in April 2012 to understand the distribution and conditions of the underground remains and is expected to be completed by October 2012. The HKJCCT will preserve the archaeological remains of high heritage significance in-situ and for the other remains, the HKJC will keep detailed written, cartographic, photographic and video records in accordance with the international practice.The revitalised CPS Compound is intended to create synergy with nearby heritage and tourist attractions, including other Conserving Central projects, the Fringe Club, Man Mo Temple, Dr Sun Yat-sen Historical Trail, Lan Kwai Fong, SoHo and Hollywood Road, etc. It is hoped it will become a unique heritage and cultural landmark for local and overseas visitors, adding vibrancy to the area, and generating business opportunities for the neighbouring retail and dining facilities.
David Elliott, a renowned curator who has been director of prestigious museums around the world, including the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, has been appointed as an advisor for the arts centre. The Jockey Club has also has appointed Asia Art Archive executive director Claire Hsu and former Swire Properties director Michael Moir, who runs a property management and investment consultancy, as consultants on programming.A special project company will be set up by the HKJCCT to undertake the project. The Government will enter into a tenancy agreement with the project company at nominal rent for an initial term of 10 years and a further term of 10 years subject to mutual agreement. The HKJCCT will fund all the revitalisation works and all operational deficits during the term of the tenancy agreement until the operation of the CPS Compound is financially self-sustaining. The HKJCCT will use any surplus income arising from the operation of the CPS Compound for heritage conservation in Hong Kong. The project has to go through a number of statutory procedures, including those under the Town Planning Ordinance and the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance before implementation and the public will have opportunities to express their views in accordance with the statutory procedures. It is expected that the project's construction works will be completed and the site open for use by the end of 2014. A tender process to select the operator for the facilities and exhibits at the compound began in late 2013. Bidders included Hong Kong Arts Centre and a consortium which included Claire Hsu's Asia Art Archive, Para Site, the Hong Kong Arts Festival, and The Ink Society. However after other bidders had been excluded as not being set up as non-profit organisations the sole remaining bidder was Arts in Heritage Research set up by Adrian Chen Chi-kong, director of New World Development and other New World Group companies and Calvin Hui, co-director of Fine Art Asia. The Jockey Club is expected to consider the bid during August 2014.
Seen in late 2012, the building's facade is completely obscured during renovation work
“MEGA TOWER” (HOPEWELL CENTRE II)
Original plans dating back to 1994 for a 93-storey “Mega Tower” plan, now renamed “Hopewell Centre II”, proposed for Kennedy Road in Wan Chai were scaled down following public opposition and new proposals announced in November 2008 for a 55-storey development with 1024 room hotel were finally approved in mid-2012. The original plans proved controversial, particularly amongst environmentalists who have proposed a green belt in order to force a reduction in the size of the project. Opponents of the scheme also had concerns about traffic congestion, air flow, obstruction of views from Mid-Levels and the impact on historic buildings such as Hung Shing Temple and Nam Koo Terrace. Government land makes up around 40% of the site with the remainder of the land belonging to the developers Hopewell Holdings. The project includes creating two additional lanes on Queen’s Road East and widening the footpaths on Kennedy Road. An additional HK$80 million will be spent on creating a public park. The development will be connected to Kennedy Road by pedestrian walkway and tunnel with 24-hour public access. During September 2008 Hopewell Holdings had put forward revised proposals which would reduce the height of the building by only about 5 floors and in late October the traffic impact assessment submitted by the developers was rejected by the Transport Department. Following a land surrender and re-grant deal with the government under which Hopewell will pay a land premium of HK$3.7 billion, the project finally got the go-ahead in mid-2012. The site will cover an area of about 105,917 square feet, with a tower height of 210-metres and total gross floor area of 1.09 million square feet. About 70% of the floor area will be allocated to the hotel, 27% for retail and the remainder for office use. In mid-2014 it became known that Hopewell had submitted an application to the Town Planning Board to reintroduce a "wall block" design and add a huge podium with a large 1,500-seat convention theatre and 50,000 sq ft of additional facilities which were opposed by local residents and rejected by the board in 2004 and 2005. The Kennedy Road Protection Group has again objected to these proposals owing to the development bulk and impact on traffic.
Site clearance began in late 2012, with completion of the project expected in 2018.
Hopewell II site clearance below Kennedy Road, early 2014
WEST KOWLOON CULTURAL DISTRICT
A one-off payment of HK$21.6 billion was approved by the Hong Kong SAR Government in July 2008 to fund development of the West Kowloon Cultural District which was first proposed in 1998 and will provide a world-class arts hub which it is hoped will attract visitors and audiences from throughout Southeast Asia and beyond. A revised estimate in March 2012 for the cost of the project, carried out by University of Hong Kong Professor Chau Kwong-wing, indicated that an additional HK$9.2 billion to HK$16.4 billion mainly due to increased construction costs, may be required if the scale and quality of the project is to be maintained and it was reported in April 2013 that the latest estimate for the cost of the project is expected to reach HK$60 billion, almost three times the original estimate, owing to the increased cost of building materials.
The hub is being built on a 40-hectare site in the area around Kowloon Station. Construction began during 2011 and the first phase, which is expected to open in 2014/2015 will provide no less than 12 new venues with a combined total of 24,400 seats. It is proposed that the development will include three iconic buildings Xiqu (Chinese Opera Centre), M+ (flagship museum) and the Concert Hall/Chamber Music Hall. It is understood that the original name for the Chinese Opera Centre, "Xiqu" is likely to be dropped and the centre simply known by its English name "Chinese Opera Centre" although the official name will not be announced until the centre has been completed in 2016. Other venues include two medium-size theatres, four blackbox theatres and piazza area. There will also The “M+” museum which will focus on design, moving image, popular culture and visual arts and the hub will also include retail, dining and entertainment facilities. The Planning Department proposed dividing the site into three zones with different height limits with the western zone being set at 50 metres, the central zone in front of Kowloon Station set at 100 metres and the eastern zone set at 70 metres. However this has led to objections that this will restrict the flexibility of the design of buildings and the height restrictions have since been partially relaxed although the final design has not yet been decided.
A competition was announced in 2006 which resulted in which British architect Norman Foster, Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and local architect Rocco Yim Sen-kee submitted proposals for the masterplan design. Part of the brief was that at least 23 of the 42 acres of the arts hub area must be open space. In March 2011, West Kowloon District Authority announced that Norman Foster had won the design competition, a decision which reflected public opinion during a public consulation period held between August and November 2010. Foster brought together 25 advisers from Hong Kong and overseas to ensure the design "reflects the expectations of the people of Hong Kong". Foster's plans feature a large 19-hectare urban park with over 5,000 trees to the west of the park occupying almost half of the entire area of the site. However, it has subsequently become known that the park area may have to be reduced by half as the area above the Western Harbour Tunnel is not suitable for planting trees. There plan includes several hotels close to the Western Harbour Tunnel portal, blocks of flats up to 20-storeys high along Austin Road and arts and cultural venues scattered throughout the site. Traffic will run underground and the project is said to boast zero carbon emissions. The original plan allows for some elements of the project, such as "M+" to be developed in phases, enabling the financial burden to be reduced but the mega-performance venue and the Chinese Opera Centre - will be built in their entirety during the first phase of construction of 12 to 13 buildings and facilities and roads from 2015 to 2020. However the revised design announced on 29th September 2011 indicates that major elements of the project will be delayed for at least two years owing to construction of the cross-border West Kowloon rail terminus at the site. Only an outdoor theatre, an arts pavilion and a Cantonese opera centre are expected to be finished by the end of 2015. The completion dates of at least nine venues, including the flagship art museum M+, two theatres, a concert hall, a recital hall, a musical theatre, a mega performance venue and an exhibition centre, will be delayed to between 2017 and 2020. Some elements of the plans submitted by Rem Koolhaas and Rocco Yim Sen-kee including a water taxi service and pontoons have been retained in the final plan. Foster's company, Foster & Partners are to work with a specialist team from Arup in an attempt to design and plan West Kowloon as Hong Kong's first zero carbon-emission district with initiatives including recycling of food waste as biogas for power generation and use of wind and solar energy, although this could take up to 25 years to achieve. Design competitions were previously held in 2001 and 2003 and Norman Foster's original 2001 design which included a huge canopy was eventually abandoned after failing to gain public support.
By the time the first phase opens it is expected that accessibility to the area will have been improved and by 2016 an estimated daily average of 99,000 passengers will be arriving at and leaving West Kowloon via the Regional Express Rail Link (Guangdong - Shenzhen - Hong Kong) serving the Pearl River Delta. The seafront terminus for the new rail link will occupy about 8 hectares of the site and proposed amendments to the plan put forward in May 2009 will see the density of the terminus development reduced with the four office towers substantially reduced in height and minimal retail space. In June 2009 Angus Cheng Siu-chuen, a former Disney executive was appointed as Executive Director (Project Delivery) but resigned after just nine days for "personal reasons" leaving the authority to search for a new Executive Director. A public consultation to shape the future of the cultural district commenced in September 2009 with the theme "Stretch your imagination. Share your dream. Create a successful West Kowloon Cultural District for all". Three month-long public consulations on the proposals ran between September 2009 and September 2011 with 1,172 submissions being received from the final consulation, mainly about operational issues such as artistic direction, finance and programming rather than design of the hub. Most comments were supportive of the the development plan and the design blueprint, which is being modified in the light of some of the submissions is expected to be submitted to the Town Planning Board by the end of January 2012.
In March 2010 the intensive global search resulted in the appointment of Mr Graham Sheffield, effective from August, who has 15 years experience as Artistic Director of the world-renowned Barbican Centre in London and the following month the first three executive directors, all with a business rather than arts background, were appointed. During a visit in May 2010, coinciding with Hong Kong Art Week and the second stage of public consultation, Mr Sheffield promised that education would play a key role under his leadership and he hoped to see the establishment of an education department and possibly the addition of an education director to draw up strategies, including forming alliances with existing institutes. He said he was also open to any form of collaboration with overseas institutes. However, in January 2011 the board of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority announced it had accepted the resignation of Mr Sheffield with immediate effect on health grounds. The Board advertised for applications for a replacement in early 2011 and in May 2011 announced the appointment of Michael Lynch, renowned Australian arts administrator whose previous roles have included chief executive of Sydney Opera House from 1998 to 2002 and head of London's Southbank Centre from 2002 until 2009. Mr Lynch took office on 25th July 2011. The authority also indicated it may also consider appointing a deputy or chief operating officer to ease pressure on the new chief executive.
Chairman of the West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD) Authority Board, Mr Henry Tang, and the newly appointed Chief Executive Officer, Mr Michael Lynch (left), meet the media at the opening ceremony of the WKCD Authority Office in Tsim Sha Tsui on 27th May 2011 at which Mr Lynch's formal appointment was announced
In January 2011 Lars Nittve, founding director of London's Tate Modern and latterly director of Stockholm's Moderna Museet, was appointed executive director of M+ Museum. Mr Nittve has announced that a "nomadic" M+ Museum would be set up in 2012, without a permanent building, in different areas of Hong Kong to familiarise the public with the concept of the museum before its planned opening in 2016.
In March 2012 a design competition for the Chinese Opera Centre, to be built at the corner of Canton Road and Austin Road West, was announced. The centre is the first of the 17 arts venues at the arts hub and will comprise an 1100-seat main theatre, a smaller 400-seat theatre, teahouse and education and training facilities. Between four and six entries are expected to be shortlisted to enter the contest and submit schematic plans and models and participate in workshops with industry professionals.
Also in March 2012, it was indicated by Michael Lynch, chief executive of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, that a new name was being sought for the project following political controversies involving conflicts of interests, which it is felt may have given the project a poor public image.
In June 2012 it was announced that veteran Swiss art collector and former ambassador to Mainland China, Dr Uli Sigg is to donate 1,463 Chinese contemporary artworks valued at HK$1.3 billion, including 26 pieces by mainland dissident Ai Weiwei, to the M+ Museum, now expected to open in 2017. The donation will comprise about one-third of the museum's collection. Dr Sigg also sold 47 Chinese contemporary artworks from the 1970s to the 1980s to M+ for HK$177 million, the first purchases made by the museum. Dr Sigg's decision to donate the collection to M+ was influenced by Hong Kong's tolerance of freedom of expression.
In July 2012 Michael Lynch, CEO of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (WKCDA), indicated that additional funding of HK$4 billion would be required for the underground facilities at the complex, which include traffic and loading areas of theatres. The underground design came after the original government funding of HK$21.6 billion had been agreed. In August 2012 WKCDA indicated the HK$21.6 billion funding had earned investment interest of HK$2 billion leaving the project on a sound financial footing. Bicycle lanes in the harbourside park will be completed by the end of 2012 and the park will hold music festivals, a winter carnival and four-week Bamboo Theatre project during the winter of 2012/13.
In September 2012 it was confirmed that the M+ Museum will be permanent home to one of the works of the renowned graffiti artist Tsang Tsou-choi, known as the "King of Kowloon", who died in 2007. Examples of Tsang's graffiti could be found on walls, lamp posts and pillars throughout Hong Kong although very few now remain. The work to be exhibited in the museum is a pair of graffiti covered wooden doors which were commissioned by Red Dog Studio in 2003 to help promote Hong Kong art. The doors which are each 1.7 metres high and 2.2 metres wide are covered in calligraphy written in ink and acrylic. Other donations to the museum include portraits of Cantonese opera by Michael Wolf, Chu's gigantic lantern, Harbour Viewing Tower and Yu Lik-wai's mixed-media installation Fantomas. By early 2014 the museum's collection had grown to over 3,200 objects including works by activist artist Ai Weiwei, some depicting the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, 1463 contemporary art works donated by Swiss collector Uli Sigg and 37 works donated by mainland collector Guan Yi. The museum has also purchased 47 works from Uli Sigg for HK$177 million. The cost of the M+ Museum is to be capped at HK$5 billion following rising construction costs, which have exceeded the previous estimate of HK$3.3 billion,
In October 2012, the Chief Secretary for the Administration, Mrs Carrie Lam, was re-appointed as Chairman of the Board of WKCDA and an 18-member board was appointed for a two-year period, which includes 15 non-official members, with considerable experience and expertise in various sectors, including arts and culture, architecture, urban planning, engineering, business and finance, law and community service.
In December 2012, the winners of the design competition for the Chinese Opera Centre were announced as architectural firms Bing Thom of Vancouver and local firm Ronald Lu. Chief architect Bing Thom is a Hong Kong designer who emigrated to Canada. The exterior design represents a lantern and opening theatre curtain. However, the cost of the venue is expected to be about HK$2.7 billion, twice the amount originally estimated in 2006. The Chinese Opera Centre is expected to be completed in 2016. In the same month it was announced that the WKCDA was in contact with Luk Yu Tea House, a traditional dim sum restaurant and tea house with a view to reviving the tradition of bringing together Cantonese Opera and tea drinking by trialling concerts in a tea house at the Chinese Opera Centre. Until about 50 years ago it was common for tea houses to have an opera singer to perform for tea drinkers. The tea house at the Chinese Opera Centre will be located above the ground floor public space and is expected to accommodate about 280 customers.
In July 2013 it was reported that only 60% of the urban park, which will cover 19 hectares of the site's 40 hectares, and will be the first part of the hub to open, would be green space, and its budget halved to HK$1 billion. The original master plan by Norman Foster had outlined 80% green space for the park, which will include thousands of trees, paths, art facilities, sculptures and a modular theatre with a seating capacity of up to 1,500 people. 60% green space meets the minimum requirement of the Planning Department. The latest plan dispenses with the 5,000 trees originally envisaged and in their place features an arts pavilion, outdoor stage and black box theatre. The plan has been drawn up by two local companies, Dennis Lau and Ng Chun Man Architects and Engineers and ACLA and a Dutch company, West 8 who were chosen from a panel of seven contenders to submit designs in 2012.
In February 2014 it was announced that the WKCDA will appoint a chief operating officer to develop its commercial and residential space. Developers will build most of the flats, but the authority is planning a hotel for visiting artists, rehearsal facilities and creative space for young people and artists.
Former Singapore Arts Festival general manager, Low Kee Hong was appointed art director and Anna Chan Chung-ying development director in dance in February 2014.
Following confirmation of a 2-year delay to completion of the Hong Kong terminus of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link at West Kowloon (see below) it is anticipated that there may be a knock-on effect of delays to completion of the Xiqu Centre and Lyric Theatre. The station construction works include an exit for the Xiqu Centre, due for completion in 2017, whilst a waterfront area used for storage of construction materials is located on the site of the Lyric Theatre, due to open in 2019.
In July 2014 the WKCDA confirmed that the museum, M+ would have its own board, independent of the WKCDA, to enable the museum to focus on developing its own mandate and ensure cultural independence and artistic freedom.
GUANGZHOU-SHENZHEN-HONG KONG EXPRESS RAIL LINK
The Hong Kong Government agreed in April 2008 that MTRCL (Mass Transit Rail Corporation Limited) proceed with planning for the Hong Kong section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link (XRL). The Hong Kong section of the 142km railway will be a 26km underground line from the terminus at West Kowloon to the boundary at Huanggang where it will connect with the mainland section of XRL.
Construction work on the mainland section commenced in mid-2010 with the project initially scheduled for completion in August 2015 but since delayed until 2017. Maximum speed on the Hong Kong section will be 200km per hour with the journey time from Hong Kong to Shenzhen being cut to just 14 minutes. The journey to Guangzhou will take 48 minutes, twice as fast as the current inter-city route between Hong Kong and Guangzhou. The Guangzhou terminus will be located at Shibi, Panyu some 23km south-east of the city centre which will provide convenient links to the Chinese National High Speed Rail Network. However travellers wishing to get to Guangzhou's city centre will need to transfer to Guangzhou Metro and travel 18 stops meaning there will be little saving in time compared to the existing route which terminates at Guangzhou East. Travelling time from Hong Kong to Beijing will be reduced to about 10 hours and to Shanghai about 8 hours. The Hong Kong terminus at West Kowloon will partly extend into the underground area of the West Kowloon Cultural District,currently under construction (see above), to provide convenient access. The cost of the XRL project was originally quoted as HK$39.5 billion in 2007 but the final estimate approved by the Executive Council in October 2009 amounted to HK$62.5 billion comprising HK$53.7 billion for the railway and HK$11.5 billion for the cost of building the associated road network around West Kowloon. The cost of the Hong Kong section of the railway will be the most expensive per kilometre of any railway in the world mainly as a result of most of the section being built underground.
An MTR study has projected that five years after trains start operating in 2016, 80% of trains will run only between Hong Kong and Shenzhen, not to Guangzhou. In 2016 it is estimated that 88,000 passengers daily will use the new link to travel to Shenzhen and Guangzhou and a further 11,000 will use the route to make connections to other mainland cities. There will be five daily trains to major cities such as Shanghai and Beijing with each train being manned by a crew of 33. It has been indicated that the fare for the journey from Hong Kong to Guangzhou will be about HK$180 compared to the current fare of HK$190 for the exisiting through-train service although this ends in the city centre whereas the new line will terminate in the suburb of Panyu. Fares for the 14 minute journey from Hong Kong to Shenzhen are expected to be HK$45 to HK$49 compared to the current East Rail fare of HK$31.3 for the 40 minute journey to the border station of Lo Wu.
On 26th December 2011, the first high-speed public trains ran on the new mainland section of line from Shenzhen North to Guangzhou South, taking just 36 minutes to complete the journey and reaching a top speed of 297km per hour. Passengers arriving at Guangzhou South can transfer to the high-speed lines to Changsha and Wuhan and the Inter-City line to Zhuhai.
In October 2011 Gammon Construction, part owned by British construction group Balfour Beattie and Australia's Leighton Asia were jointly awarded the HK$8.9 billion contract for the construction of the West Kowloon Terminus North station. Facilities include nine long-haul and six shuttle platforms, customs and immigration facilities, departure lounges, duty free and other retail outlets. A key element is a dramatic steel and glass roof structure above the entrance. Construction is expected to be completed in 2015. The same joint-venture had already been awarded the contract for the West Kowloon Terminus Approach Tunnel South in 2010.
During October 2009 a counter-proposal for the rail link put forward by a community group was rejected by the Transport and Housing Bureau. The group had suggested that the Hong Kong terminus be located at Kam Sheung Road Station near Yuen Long in the New Territories where passengers could interchange with West Rail and also a link to Tsing Yi would be built to enable passengers to join the Airport Express and Tung Chung lines. The proposal would have meant passengers would have to transfer to domestic services to reach the city centre and the project would be delayed by at least three years for new planning permissions to be obtained and technical difficulties resolved. Construction of a depot near Yuen Long will result in residents in the villages of Tai Kong Po and Tsoi Yuen being displaced and the government has subsequently announced a generous financial compensation package for about 160 affected villagers and landowners in addition to priority for public housing. Displacement of the villagers became an emotive issue leading to delays in agreeing the funding package for the project and voiciferous protests outside LEGCO (Legislative Council) meetings but agreement for HK$66.9 billion project funding and HK$2 billion compensation for affected villagers was finally reached on 16th January 2010 following a fractious 25-hour LEGCO debate. By mid-July 2010 contracts totalling over HK$18 billion had been awarded.
MTR Corporation submitted plans to build three "stepped" office towers of 17,18 and 19 storeys above the West Kowloon terminus, designed to provide a visual transition between the existing tall residential buildings above Kowloon Station and the much lower buildings of Yau Ma Tei and Jordan but the plans were rejected by the Planning Department which has recommended to the Town Planning Board that MTR Corp be required to explore improved designs. In August 2010 detailed plans for the 11-hectare terminus were revealed which will be put to public tender before the end of 2010. The plans include roads separating the terminus from the West Kowloon Cultural District to be put underground in order that pedestrians can walk between the two without obstruction. The terminus building will form a green archway over which pedestrians will be able to walk there will be a large piazza planted with vegetation designated for public performances in front of the western exit. In January 2011 the southbound section of Lin Cheung Road and the whole of Wui Cheung Road in West Kowloon, a major route connecting southbound traffic from the Western Harbour Tunnel to Tsim Sha Tsui, was closed until 2015 for construction works in connection with the new terminus. Traffic is being diverted along a temporary road.
By the end of March 2013, over 70% of excavation works including those for the tunnels and terminus had been completed. The excavation works at the southern end of the terminus had reached level B4, and the main structures for the first two underground levels were been completed. All major contracts for civil engineering and E&M works under the XRL project have been awarded, with a total value of HK$44.812 billion. As at end-March 2013, the cumulative expenditures were HK$24.418 billion. A contingency budget of HK$5.4 billion, at 2009 prices, has been reserved reserved for the project, to provide additional funding in the event of unforseen situations during construction.
In July 2013, in response to a LEGCO question regarding press reports that the opening of the Hong Kong Section of XRL may need to be deferred by at least 500 days owing to geological, design and technical issues related to the West Kowloon Cultural Centre project, of which the Centre for Contemporary Performance will sit atop the West Kowloon Terminus, the Secretary for Home Affairs advised that the XRL project remained on target for completion in 2015. However, in April 2014 MTR confirmed delays attributed to damage to a tunnel boring machine as well as problems with construction of the West Kowloon terminus would mean the construction would not be completed until 2016 and the line will open in 2017.
An outstanding issue still to be resolved is the establishment of a joint immigration checkpoint at the Hong Kong terminus of the line. Hong Kong's Basic Law does not allow, apart from a few exceptions, for Chinese national laws to be enforced in Hong Kong making it difficult for mainland immigration officials to be deployed at the station in West Kowloon. The Department of Justice and Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau are currently negotiating with the mainland authorities for a solution.
Express Rail Link will dramatically reduce journey times to the Mainland and will link up with the Chinese National High Speed Rail Network
HONG KONG – ZHUHAI –MACAU ROAD BRIDGE
During October 2008 the Governments of Hong Kong SAR, Guangdong and Macau SAR invited financial institutions in these regions to express interest in provision of loan facilities for the Hong Kong – Zhuhai – Macau Bridge (HZMB) project. The HK$83 billion project is being funded about 42% by the three governments with the remaining 58% being financed by loans. The bridge which was first proposed some twenty-five years ago will be one of the longest bridge networks in the world and is intended ease movement of people and freight and accelerate development of the Pearl River Delta. The main structure will include two artificial islands, 6.75km tunnel and a bridge 22.85km long with a six-lane highway and vehicle speeds of up to 100km/hr. There will be connecting roads of approximately 12.6km on the Hong Kong side and 13.9km on the mainland side and when completed travel between Hong Kong and the west bank of the delta will take only 15 minutes. On the Hong Kong side the bridge will start from a 130-hectare artificial island east of Hong Kong International Airport. The Hong Kong section of the project is expected to cost at least HK$48.5 billion including HK$25 billion for the Hong Kong Link Road.
The Hong Kong - Macau - Zhuhai Road Bridge will start from an artificial island next to Hong Kong International Airport and the island will accommodate the Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities. Image: Jonathan D Solomon and Ling Fan.
A generous financing agreement with Bank of China which will charge 10% less than its benchmark rate is expected to allow the toll fee for private cars to be as low as HK$100 and about HK$200 for trucks. Latest projections indicate the bridge will be used by about 14,000 vehicles and 69,000 passengers a day when it opens in 2016, rising to between 50000 and 68800 vehicles a day in 2035. The preliminary contract for design of the bridge has been awarded to China Highway Planning and Design Institute in partnership with Ove Arup & Partners Hong Kong and was signed in March 2009. Each government will manage its own border checkpoints. In connection with the bridge a new road link from Tuen Mun to Chek Lap Kok is to be constructed to meet anticipated increased traffic demand between the Northwest New Territories and North Lantau. This will include a 5km tunnel and 1.6km elevated highway and will also provide an alternative route to the airport. In September 2009 it was announced that the Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities (HKBCF) Reclamation Works were scheduled to commence in the third quarter of 2010, but a legal challenge on environmental grounds resulted in a substantial delay to commencement of the project. HKBCF involves creation of an artificial island of about 150 hectares to provide for passenger clearance and cargo processing and includes 19 hectares for the Tuen Mun-Chek Lap Kok Link.
"Waves", first-prize winning entry in the HKBCF International Design Ideas Competition Professional Group (see below). Design by Siming Chen, Xincheng Lin, Liang Wu, Jin Zhou, Yuxin He and Yimin Yang
In November 2009 Fugro Technical Services were appointed to carry out ground investigation for the reclamation works. Environmental approval for the project was granted in October 2009 subject to the Highways Department drawing up a management plan for the future marine park of over 170 hectares to be established near Brothers Islands as a refuge for Chinese White Dolphins (also known as "pink dolphins") which may be affected by the project. However the marine park will not be established until after the bridge is built. A Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities International Design Ideas Competition has been held and has provided creative concepts to serve as reference for the detailed design which is expected to commence in mid-2010. Over 160 entries were received from 20 countries and regions.
Construction work commenced on 15th December 2009 on an artificial island outside Zhuhai which will house cross-border facilities on the mainland side and the event was marked with a construction commencement ceremony in Zhuhai.
In November 2010 the tender for construction of the artificial islands and 6.7km tunnel, which will be the longest immersed tunnel in the world, was awarded to a joint venture led by China Communications Construction Co. The team members of the joint venture include AECOM Asia Company Ltd., Shanghai Ur n Construction (Group) Co., China Highway Planning and Design Institute Inc., COWI A/S, Shanghai Tunnel Engineering & Rail Transit Design and Research Institute and CCCC Fourth Harbor Engineering Investigation and Design Institute. The whole tendering process and its supervision were undertaken by the relevant authorities in Mainland China.
In early 2011 there were reports that the Macau Government may impose restrictions on the number of vehicles crossing the bridge from Hong Kong to Macau as the small size of Macau would mean there would be major congestion if traffic were allowed to enter unrestricted. Similarly Hong Kong may impose restrictions on mainland traffic and such restrictions may have an impact on the profitability of the bridge.
The main construction work was scheduled to commence in late December 2010, with the whole bridge project expected to be completed by 2016. However, work had not started by April 2011 when, following a complaint by a Tung Chung resident, a legal ruling was made that environmental issues had not been properly considered when awarding environmental permits, caused further delay to the project. The government's appeal against the ruling was upheld in September 2011 and the plaintiff decided not to take the case to a higher court, clearing the way for work on the Hong Kong section of the bridge to commence immediately and the project was gazetted by the government on 21st October 2011. The delay led to speculation that the original completion date of 2016 would not be met but in November 2011 the government announced that an additional 5,000 workers would be hired, taking the total to about 14,000, to ensure the project would be completed on time. Construction work on the Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities artificial island finally commenced on 14th December 2011 and the event was marked by an opening ceremony attended by the Chief Executive of Hong Kong SAR.
In April 2012, the Legislative Council's transport panel approved a request for HK$8.8 billion additional funding, mainly resulting from the delay caused by the environmental appeal.
As a result of an industrial accident in October 2012, when a temporary working platform collapsed inside a cellular structure, resulting in one fatality and fourteen injuries, reclamation works in connection with construction of the artificial island off Tung Chung were suspended until mid-January 2013, when the Government's Labour Department revoked the suspension notices.
In March 2014, the Hong Kong Government's Development Bureau announced it is to undertake a HK$61.9 million planning and engineering study to turn an artificial island which forms part of the bridge project into a resort. The 130-hectare island would house the boundary-crossing facilities as well as shops and hotels. Owing to the proximity of the airport, buildings would be low-rise, less than 10 storeys high. The study is to begin in August 2014 with completion in 2016. The Development Bureau is also seeking funding for a feasibility study into the construction of a series of artificial islands to link Hong Kong Island with Lantau.
HONG KONG – SHENZHEN WESTERN EXPRESS LINE (Airports Rail Link)
A 50km cross-border link between Hong Kong and Shenzhen airports is being planned. The length of the Hong Kong section of the line would be about 25km and would include a 7km cross-harbour tunnel between the airport and Tuen Mun and a 9km spur line to Yuen Long. Journey time between the airports would be 20 minutes. The estimated cost of the project according to a government commissioned study could exceed HK$50 billion with most of the Hong Kong section having to be built underground. The study estimates about 7,000 passengers a day travelling between the two airports would use the link in 2020, the earliest possible date for completion. It is expected that cross-border passengers from other parts of the Pearl River Delta would also use the service. The express rail link was one of ten infrastructure projects Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen pledged in his 2007 policy address would be initiated and was also named by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in March 2009 as one of three cross-border infrastructure projects which would be expedited by the central government. However the project is believed to be considered of lower priority than the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link (see below). Shenzhen airport currently operates only domestic flights but is planning to operate international flights in the future subject to approval by the Civil Aviation Administration of China. The line would link to the Guangzhou-Dongguan-Shenzhen rail link which was completed in 2011.