The Hong Kong section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link (XRL) is safe and in sound condition, the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) said.
This means that the rail link is likely to start service in September as scheduled, despite allegations of serious water leakages in multiple locations along the route, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The EMSD said relevant government bodies have conducted on-site inspections and approval of all safety-related systems for the testing and commissioning stage of the Hong Kong section of the rail link.
These include fire service systems, emergency evacuation facilities, high-speed trains, and signaling and communication systems.
It is said that the XRL trains, named “Vibrant Express”, will start operating from Sept. 23, although the date has yet to be confirmed by MTR Corporation, which is responsible for the cross-border high-speed rail project.
The EMSD said it has scrutinized emergency procedures prepared by MTR together with the Security Bureau, and observed drills conducted by the rail operator to review the effectiveness of all contingency plans.
It said all relevant government departments have also confirmed the operating systems, train compartments and station facilities can function normally, while the authorities will continue to supervise the rail operator in final preparatory works prior to the rail link’s commissioning.
In Beijing, Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan told media after meeting with officials of China Railway Corporation (CRC) that the government has reached a consensus with CRC over related arrangements, including frequency, destinations, financing and fares. The details will be announced later this month.
Asked about the reported water leakages, Chan said the Highways Department has inspected the locations where the problem emerged and confirmed there will be no impact to the safety of the rail link after improvements have been made.
The government will continue to monitor the situation, he added.
On Thursday, Civic Party lawmaker Jeremy Tam Man-ho released photos showing serious water leakages in several tunnels, including the one at the B4 level of the West Kowloon terminus and the Shing Mun Tunnel. He said the pictures were taken in the past two weeks.
Simon Tang Wai-yung, MTR’s general manager of the Express Rail Link, said he had not seen the photos, but insisted that water seepage is quite common in underground infrastructure due to the presence of underground water and it is nearly impossible to make the tunnels totally waterproof, RTHK reported.
The company has managed to stop all of the leaks by grouting over the past six to 12 months, Tang said.
But Tam urged the government to postpone next month’s planned opening of the XRL and hire an independent expert to fully examine the problem.
The lawmaker warned that once the high-speed railway starts operating, the government can only do repair works at night for a few hours, which will not only drag on for a long time but also lead to much higher costs in the future, according to RTHK.
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