BY LUIS LIU, CHINA DAILY
The new High Speed Rail linking will offer Hong Kong’s young people more career choices and opportunities in the mainland, Chief Executive of the special administrative region Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said, noting the public needs not worry about the operation of the railway, as China Daily reported on Friday.
The launch of the Hong Kong section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link (XRL), on Sunday, will drive the development of Hong Kong across sectors and enhance connectivity in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA), Lam said.
Lam voiced her hopes for the 26-km rail project that connects Hong Kong with the country’s 25,000-km high-speed rail network during a recent interaction with the media at Hong Kong’s government headquarters.
The significance of the high-speed rail is multi-faceted, as travel becomes much more convenient, Lam said. She said there will be far more regional exchanges and cooperation in all respects once the high-speed train started running.
Illustrating how XRL will benefit Hong Kong, Lam said for businessmen, it will make trips to the mainland much faster and more convenient helping those with factories to manage, and businesses to take care of save a lot of time.
For travelers, a journey on the high-speed rail will enhance overall experience, she said.
For Hong Kong’s young people, Lam said, the rail adds more facilities to pursue careers, study and live on the mainland, Lam said.
Direct trains from the West Kowloon station travels to 44 mainland cities at speeds of up to 310 km per hour. Thirty-four of those cities are less than five hours away, including provincial capitals such as Wuhan, Changsha, Nanchang and famous tourism hubs such as Xiamen, Guilin and Shantou.
As an infrastructure project, more than 90 percent of direct economic benefits of the Hong Kong section will come from savings resulting from shorter commuting times, according to the Transport and Housing Bureau in Hong Kong. The bureau estimated that in 50 years of operation, the Hong Kong section could save passengers some 39 million hours of traveling time per year on an average, resulting on savings of about HK$88 billion.
Lam said connectivity was the cornerstone of the Bay Area world-class city cluster-to-be and the project would boost connectivity of the entire Bay Area.
She pointed out that last year, the total GDP contributed by all 11 cities in the GBA stood at 11.7 trillion yuan, suggesting five percent of the national population had contributed to more than 14 percent of the country’s GDP in 2017.
In his report to the 19th CPC National Congress, President and CPC General Secretary Xi Jinping voiced the central government’s support for Hong Kong’s integration into national development. Citing the report, Lam said it was a major boost for Hong Kong’s future integration moves.
With more cross-border infrastructure projects awaiting commissioning, including the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, the third runway of the Hong Kong International Airport and Liantang Heung Yuen Wai Boundary Control Point, Hong Kong will connect with the Bay Area better and support Bay Area development by optimizing the flow of talents, goods and information, Lam said.
Addressing concerns that there might be a conflict of interest between the Hong Kong government, the MTR and the China Railway Corporation (CRC) considering that this is the first time that a part of China’s high-speed rail system is being operated using a concession approach, wherein the Hong Kong government owns relevant properties and Hong Kong’s sole railway operator — the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) Corporation operates the rail services, Lam said no problem was foreseen as the Hong Kong government had inked two, separate detailed pacts with the parties concerned.
In the pact with CRC, the two sides listed the responsibilities and rights and also guaranteed an emergency communication mechanism to cope with any unpredictable issues, Lam said.
The agreement with the MTR nailed down the financial and supervision arrangements so that the situation is always under control, communication is seamless and financial responsibilities are clear, Lam said.
The CE stressed that the public need not worry about the XRL’s mode of operation.