The latest news in construction from Hong Kong

Historic Hong Kong to Shenzhen high-speed line finally opens

West Kowloon Station 2017 (copyright David Feehan)
West Kowloon Station 2017 (copyright David Feehan)

September saw the long-awaited opening of the high-speed rail line from West Kowloon to Shenzhen and Guangzhou after eight years of construction. Commuters can now journey between the two destinations in just 19 minutes, while Hong Kong to Guangzhou clocks in at an impressive 48 minutes.

West Kowloon Station (copyright David Feehan)
West Kowloon Station (copyright David Feehan)

The Express Rail Link (XRL) connection forms a major part of the ‘Greater Bay Area’ project – the Chinese government’s ambitious plan to form a solid business and economic hub between areas including Hong Kong, Macau, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and other cities in the Pearl River Delta.

West Kowloon Station (copyright David Feehan)
West Kowloon Station (copyright David Feehan)

The journey begins in Hong Kong’s new West Kowloon Station, a cavernous 380,000 sqm development sandwiched between and connected to Kowloon Station (Tung Chung and Airport Express Lines) and Austin Station (West Rail Line). The 28m deep basement houses 15 platforms for long haul and short haul services and provides, for the first time, direct links between Hong Kong and the mainland’s extensive high speed rail network. The station construction involved the excavation of 1.7million cubic metres of earth and the placement of 600,000 cubic metres of concrete. The station is topped with a signature roof structure which houses a sky garden with expansive views of the Hong Kong Island skyline.

From West Kowloon station the link, trains travel through 26km of tunnel to the Chinese border. Tunnels were constructed with a combination of cut and cover, drill and blast and tunnel boring machine methods through variable ground conditions.

Tunnel construction at Ngau Tam Mei in 2014 (copyright David Feehan)
Tunnel construction at Ngau Tam Mei in 2014
(copyright David Feehan)
Tunnel Boring Machine Head at the interface between Contracts 823 and 824 in Tai Kong Po, 2015 (copyright David Feehan)
Tunnel Boring Machine Head at the interface between Contracts 823 and 824 in Tai Kong Po, 2015 (copyright David Feehan)

As previously covered in this blog, Contract Dispute Consultants has worked across a range of projects on the XRL, including the West Kowloon station (WKS).

West Kowloon Station (copyright David Feehan)
West Kowloon Station (copyright David Feehan)

Project facts and figures:

  • 26km: The route length for the Hong Kong part of the line
  • 8 tunnel boring machines excavating 19.7km of tunnel
  • Project cost: HK$84.42 billion (US$10.7 billion)
  • Train speed: 200km/h
  • Construction duration – 2010 to 2018

Typhoon Mangkhut batters region, but Hong Kong stays standing

September also saw Typhoon Mangkhut hammer Hong Kong. Mangkhut, which means mangosteen in Thai, was the strongest typhoon to hit the territory since 1983’s Typhoon Ellen.

Compared to the devastation the typhoon brought in the Philippines (81 people dead) and mainland China (four dead and 2.45 million evacuated from their homes), Hong Kong suffered far less than other affected regions.

Broken Windows in an Office Building in Central (copyright David Feehan)
Broken Windows in an Office Building in Central (copyright David Feehan)
Fallen Trees on Lantau Island (copyright David Feehan)
Fallen Trees on Lantau Island (copyright David Feehan)

City officials and emergency services praised

Despite winds reaching up to 175km/h in Hong Kong during the 12 hour assault, the general consensus is that emergency services, as well as city and government officials, responded well to the impending threat of Typhoon Mangkhut. Prior to the storm, the Hong Kong Observatory issued accurate weather warnings to the public well in advance, helping to avoid major casualties.

The biggest controversy in the aftermath of the typhoon was the transport chaos felt by thousands trying to travel to work on the Monday morning immediately following the downgrading of storm signals. Due to the felling of some 40,000 trees by the high winds blocking 600 roads, the majority of bus services were initially unable to operate, forcing tens of thousands of passengers onto the MTR. However, MTR services were also severely affected by storm damage.

Despite the Monday chaos, impressive work by the emergency services and authorities meant by Tuesday it was almost business as usual for Hong Kong a testament to the resilience of Hong Kong’s infrastructure. Hong Kong suffered relatively little loss of power or water supplies. 40,000 households suffered power outages during and after the storm, but within a week just 600 families, mainly in the New Territories, were still without power.

Whilst the clean up continues, it’s hard to imagine many other cities in the world recovering so rapidly from such a dramatic storm.

Facts about Typhoon Mangkhut

  • With the typhoon category labelled as a No. 10 on the strength scale, it was the strongest since 1946 when records began
  • 40,000 trees estimated to have been uprooted
  • Floodwaters were at their highest since 1904 (Tai Po Kau saw floodwaters rise to 3.38 metres)
  • Insurance claims could reach up to US$1 billion
  • 2,000 flights had to be rescheduled from Hong Kong International Airport
Fallen Trees on Lantau Island (copyright David Feehan)
Fallen Trees on Lantau Island (copyright David Feehan)