High-speed rail link between Hong Kong and China delayed

Construction of a new high-speed rail link between Hong-Kong and China has been delayed by nine months after one the project’s tunnel boring machines (TBMs) was “severely” damaged by flood water.

In a statement, MTR said the Hong Kong section of the  Express Rail Link (XRL) would now be completed in 2016 following an “unforeseen challenge”.

Torrential rain on March 30 caused a section of tunnel in Yuen Long to flood, washing soil and debris into the site. While clearing the site, the contractor found that the flood waters had caused major damage to one of the TBMs.

The project team is now determining whether the tunnel can be completed using alternative methods as the TBM repair would require a complete replacement of some of the electrical components.

Mr T C Chew, projects director of MTR Corporation, said: ”The Express Rail Link project is a very large undertaking and immensely complex. Since construction began, we have been presented with numerous challenges which have put pressure on our schedule.

“We have been very focused on catching up through fine-tuning designs and adjusting the construction works but this latest situation with the TBM makes it clear that completion of the project by 2015 is not achievable.”

The project is having to manager other tunnelling challenges. A section of the route cuts through a protected wetland – an area known to contain marble caverns. MTR are also having to deal with difficult ground conditions at the West Kowloon Terminus.

A delay could also impact on the HKD $62.4 billion (US $8.05 billion) budget for the project which is expected to lead to greater cultural integration and stronger economic ties with mainland China.