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designing hong kong
How should HK connect with the National Express Rail?
Hong Kong must increase it rail-based links with the Mainland. Comparison with similar urban areas in developed countries tells us that the density of rail and road networks in the Pearl River Delta will have to catch up with the increase in GDP and associated demand for travel and transport in the region.

The disagreement is therefore not whether Hong Kong should connect to the National High Speed Rail Network, but how it should connect.

65bln Solution with One Station
Two arguments are offered for terminating the Express Rail in West Kowloon: the first and last impression of visitors must be spectacular, and secondly, that West Kowloon is the inner-city, close to the business and residential districts. The cost for this option is HK$65bln.

25bln Solution with Four Stations
The alternative - promoted by the Expert Group of ProCommons, an independent group of engineers - is to terminate the Express Rail in the New Territories where passengers conveniently transfer in the same station onto three local train services: a 135km/h express service with luggage handling identical to the Airport Express to the existing stations in Central, Kowloon and Tsing Yi; as well as south on the West Rail to Tsimshatsui and Hung Hom and north on the West Rail to Yuen Long and Tuen Mun.

This option gives people a choice of four convenient check-in stations and allows for traffic to disperse. The cost for the interchange station and the extension of the airport express is estimated at HK$ 25bln by ProCommons and HK$43bln by Government - confirming that this option is at least HK$22bln cheaper!

The inner-city argument is deeply flawed
Traditional cities grew from a crossing of roads and rivers in concentric circles and have the best connections to business and residential destinations along axial roads and rail lines from their inner-city outwards.

Hong Kong has a different topography. Our inner-city is Victoria Harbour and destinations – including homes, hotels and offices – are spread along both waterfronts. Road networks are congested and the risk of grid lock is real. Solutions, if available, are costly and greatly impact the living environment. Moreover, as destinations in the New Territories continue to grow, forcing ever more people to travel south first to catch the national express rail going north makes little sense.

Traffic in West Kowloon can't be resolved - not even with a HK$11.5bln road
As most passengers drop their luggage off at their home or hotel, or need to go to their office, client, supplier or bank first, the 200,000 daily passengers need transport between the Express Rail and their final destination outside West Kowloon.

Why would we want them to go through West Kowloon where they compete for road capacity with other traffic generating activities, including the new Cultural District? The Government's plans include a HK$11.5 bln triple-deck underground road just to get people around the station. And this does not solve the core problem.

West Kowloon is cut off on the south and west by water, and is blocked on the east by highly congested roads: Canton Road, Austin Road, Jordan Road, etc. Transport connections and rail stations in the area are disjointed. Rather then one conveniently integrated station with multiple local rail lines along the express rail, as possible in the New Territories, there will be three separate stations with awkward connections, especially for people carrying luggage.

A high-quality and impressive arrival experience?
The 'quality image' argument is not convincing either. Passengers don’t arrive in a cultural oasis. Once they get off the trains and find their way to the drop-off and pick-up points opposite Elements, passengers get the grand view of blind walls with MTR ventilation facilities. Their coaches and taxis then disappear into road tunnels and congestion.

In case passengers use public transport, they will first have to climb up and down stairs and walk along foot-bridges and through subways to connect with other rail lines or busses. Again, not an uplifting experience.

Let's use the spare capacity in our existing system
The success and failure of express rail stations is NOT dependent on an ‘inner-city’ location but on their connectivity with local transport.

The right objective is to select a location which gives the largest group of passengers the most convenient connections between their origin and destinations at the lowest economic cost – taking into account investment, operational cost, travel time and congestion.

In Hong Kong this can be achieved by connecting the national rail in the New Territories with local express trains to Tsing Yi, Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, and using the spare capacity on the Airport Express and the unused station under IFC2.

Without the station in West Kowloon, Express rail passengers reach the West Kowloon Cultural District via Austin Station and Kowloon Station in almost the same time. Moreover, the land freed up will help better integrate the Cultural District with 'old' Kowloon, make the area more walkable and remove restrictions on where and when to build cultural facilities.

Express rail passengers after arriving at their hotels without congestion - and after a nap and shower – can then enjoy the delights of our city with pleasure. And return often with friends and family.
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