The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge may end up costing HK$5 billion (US$644.92 million) more than what the government had envisaged, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported Friday.
The total cost of the bridge is likely to add up to HK$35.4 billion, compared with the budgeted figure of HK$30.34 budget, the report said.
The budget-overshoot is ten times that outlined in a recent paper the government presented to the Legislative Council in reply to a lawmaker’s query.
A document sent to LegCo from the Highways Department had shown that its additional expense could reach at least HK$500 million. The department will apply to the legislature for additional fund outlay early next year.
Offering an explanation now, the government said that it had filled in “at least HK$500 million” on the earlier LegCo document as that was the biggest amount it could choose from on the form. Other options were “below HK$200 million” and “between HK$200 million and HK$500 million”.
Increased wages, material costs and machinery prices have led to the budget overshoot, the Journal cited Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, Secretary for Transport and Housing, as saying.
The official, however, refuted reports which said the opening of the Hong Kong section of the bridge will be delayed by one year to 2017. The government continues to expect that most construction work will be completed in 2016, Cheung said.
The only thing left incomplete by then would be the traffic control and monitoring system.
Observers are not convinced about the explanation for the budget overshoot, saying the government has fallen short in estimating the construction costs when working out the budget.
They urged the government to first complete the tendering process before applying for any additional budgetary outlays.
The bridge, which started construction in 2011, is among the 10 highlighted key infrastructure projects in the city.
The Hong Kong section of the bridge will start from a massive artificial island created through reclamation from the open waters off the northeast of the Hong Kong International Airport.
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