The long-awaited partial opening of Hong Kong's scandal-hit Sha Tin-Central rail link is set for Valentine's Day, the city's transport minister has confirmed.
Speaking after the Legislative Council's transport panel meeting on Friday, Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan said the first part of the city's most expensive rail project " a section from Tai Wai to Kai Tak through Hin Keng and Diamond Hill " would be operational by February 14.
"We believe this is a good day amid the current gloomy sentiment. The MTR Corporation will announce the details and has some surprises for us about its arrangement," he said. "The Transport Department will liaise with all transport operators to provide connecting services."
The Post was told a trial run for the Tai Wai-Kai Tak stretch was conducted in October last year, gaining approval from the government.
Last July, authorities announced the partial opening would be slated for the first quarter of this year after reviewing two MTR reports citing shoddy work at the Hung Hom station of the link, and a case involving missing safety documents related to three locations at the stop.
The project's total cost will balloon to a record HK$99.1 billion (US$12.7 billion) at least " from HK$97.1 billion " because of the extra cost for the partial opening, as well as reinforcement work for the Hung Hom station.
While the embattled rail operator will provisionally pay HK$2 billion of the extra costs, it will work with the government for an overall settlement.
Chan said: "We are still negotiating with the MTR Corp about the project's final cost."
The Tai Wai to Hung Hom section was initially expected to open in the middle of 2019, after an earlier target of December 2018 was pushed back by construction delays.
Chan said the MTR team was working hard to finish reinforcement work at Hung Hom station, with the stretch expected to be opened by the end of 2021.
As for the cross-harbour section between Hung Hom and Admiralty, its opening was earlier delayed till the first quarter of 2022 from the already revised target of the fourth quarter of 2021. The company cited vandalism of another line by radical protesters amid the ongoing anti-government protests for the latest postponement.
Hong Kong has been roiled by more than seven months of civil unrest sparked by the now-withdrawn extradition bill. The movement has since morphed into a wider campaign against the government and police, with often-violent clashes between protesters and officers.
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