A road or rail tunnel – or both – linking north Lantau to Mui Wo is back on the planning agenda, nearly two decades after being rejected on environmental grounds.
A CEDD study on residential development at Siu Ho Wan, east of Tung Chung, discusses the options for building one or both tunnels through the Lantau North Country Park to support future population growth.
It says the Siu Ho Wan development on reclaimed land would house more than 9,000 people, while the expansion of Tung Chung is forecast to add another 170,000 in the next ten years.
The study, by engineering firm Ove Arup, says the route of any new north-south transport connections would depend on the design of the East Lantau Metropolis (ELM). (Notably the study began in 2015 while the ELM was still being discussed by LanDAC.)
The report canvasses two railway tunnel routes to Mui Wo – one from Siu Ho Wan and the other from Tung Chung East station, due to come into service in the mid-2020s.
It says the route from Tung Chung East would be the most feasible, with fewer engineering issues, a lower cost and a direct interface into the MTR system.
The study also considers possible road tunnels to Mui Wo, suggesting the most practical point would be adjacent to the sewage treatment works.
But the potential route faces a number of constraints, including archaeological and scientific sites at Tai Ho Wan, the North Lantau Country Park and the marshes and freshwater sources around Mui Wo.
It says that with the extra population in Tung Chung and Siu Ho Wan, traffic volume on the North Lantau Highway would go beyond the “manageable degree of congestion” after 2031.
The contentious HK$400 billion ELM, built on 1000 ha of reclaimed land in the waters between Lantau and Hong Kong Island, will not be ready until at least the mid-2030s.
In 2000, the Transport Bureau recommended building a tunnel from Tai Ho Wan to Mui Wo instead of widening Tung Chung Road, at that point a narrow one-lane road.
In a decision unimaginable today, this was overturned by the-then Director of Environmental Protection and instead the widening of Tung Chung Road went ahead.
As the Transport Bureau explained:
The Siu Ho Wan study follows another CEDD report which examines the options for rail and road links from Tuen Mun through northeast Lantau to the ELM and Hong Kong Island.
Separately, the government is seeking HK$88 million for a feasibility study on a freeway from North Lantau to Yuen Long, a plan derided by opposition law-makers as a way to take vehicles to the ELM rather than fixing New Territories transport congestion.
Photo (top): Tai Ho Wan