East Lantau Metropolis

3rd March 2023

Our December 2018 article reported that the then Chief Executive, Ms Carrie Lam, had unveiled in her 2018 Policy Address her “Lantau Tomorrow Vision” which was part of her strategy to combat the rising cost of living by building new housing. Dubbed the East Lantau Metropolis (ELM), the plan consisted of phased reclamation work to form artificial islands in the waters between Hong Kong Island and Lantau Island to accommodate residential and business developments.

The ELM has its genesis in the Planning Department’s 2016 strategic “Hong Kong 2030+” document. This document provides the framework for the long-term development of Hong Kong and the supporting infrastructure. The study was supplemented by a further Transport and Infrastructure Review which provided the broad scope of infrastructure requirements to support the ELM plans.

Express Rail Link

2030 Transport Infrastructure and Traffic Review – October 2016

The first stage to achieving this vision was the formation of the Kau Yi Chau artificial islands (KYCAI) (1000 hectares). Ove Arup and Partners were appointed by the Government in June 2021 to undertake the detailed planning and engineering study for the construction of the KYCAI as well as a feasibility study for the road and rail links to the islands.  In parallel, the marine site investigation works commenced in the waters between Lantau and Hong Kong Island in early 2022. Whilst the engineering study will continue through to 2024, the government has announced the updated proposals for public comments.

Hong Kong Macau Bridge Passenger Control Building

The Three Island Proposal at Kau Yi Chau

The updated plan adopts a three island reclamation configuration to provide approximately 1000 ha of land with a Y shaped channel separating the islands aligned with the prevailing winds. The islands have been located in relatively shallow waters to aid reclamation. Reclamation is slated to commence at the end of 2025 following further ground investigation, Environmental Impact assessment reports and completion of statutory requirements.

Ocean Park Water World Hong Kong

View of Kau Yi Chau from Lantau Island (Hong Kong Island is located on top left hand corner)

The proposal provides for 190 000 – 210 000 residential flats within seven liveable living communities planned with a 15-minute neighbourhood concept. With a public to private housing ratio of 70:30, the plan accommodates a population of 500,000 – 550 000 and providing 270 000 employment opportunities (including about 200 000 in CBD3). Comprehensive pedestrian and cycling networks will allow residents to travel by healthy modes such as walking or cycling within 15 minutes from their homes to different destinations to obtain various necessities. The first population intake is targeted for 2033, by all metrics, an extremely ambitious target.

m+museum opening

Visualisation – HK Government

A new commercial business district, (CBD3) including commercial, residential, culture and recreation will be located in the eastern part of Island A for providing about 4 million m2 of commercial gross floor area (GFA).

 ELM Transport Details Come into Focus

The new study provides details of the proposed transport links between the KYCAI, Hong Kong Island, Lantau Island and Northwest New Territories with an emphasis on KYCAI becoming fully integrated into the Government’s plans for the Greater Bay Area (GBA).

The priority rail and road links which have been identified consist of:

m+museum opening

Hong Kong Island West to North East Lantau Link Road Network (HK Government)

1.     A road link to the KYCAI from Western District on Hong Kong Island (HKIW). The study indicates that this will be an underwater tunnel.

Gerald Desmond Bridge construction

Subsea Tunnel Proposed to Link Hong Kong Island and KYCAI (David Feehan)

2.     A road viaduct from KYCAI to North East Lantau (NEL), connecting to the proposed Route 11 which will feed into the new developments of the Northwestern New Territories via the Tsing Lung Bridge and a similar link to Penny’s Bay. This would be the first road link from Hong Kong Island to the New Territories which bypasses the Kowloon urban area. Construction of the HKIW to NEL highway will commence in parallel with the KYCAI reclamation such that they are both complete by 2033.

 3.     A rail link from West Island line on Hong Kong island (with potential connections at HKU and Kennedy Town stations) to the KYCAI, and onwards to Hung Shui Kiu, (the new station proposed for the Tuen Ma Line as an interchange for the proposed Qianhai link) with an interchange station at Sunny Bay and a new station at Tuen Mun East.

Black Point Power Station

Rail Interchange with Kennedy Town Station Proposed (David Feehan)

4.     A green mass transit system will link the KYCAI communities with the main rail link. The exact mode will be decided at the next stage of planning.

Black Point Power Station

The proposed Hung Shui Kiu to Hong Kong Island West Rail Link (Hong Kong Government)

On-going Environmental Concerns

The construction of the KYCAI and the associated road and rail links are likely to have a significant environmental impact on the Hong Kong central waters and those around east Lantau.  The scheme has been the subject of controversy since its inception with the previous government announcing the construction of the islands before a comprehensive study of land needs and supply had been completed.

Black Point Power Station

Looking out over the Central Waters from Hong Kong island with Kau Yi Chau centre right (David Feehan)

Practical Concerns

The current massive pipeline of infrastructure work in Hong Kong has raised concerns from industry insiders as to whether the volume of work can be delivered to the accelerated timeframes demanded by government. The potential pipeline of work was captured in our recent animation.

This raises the simple practical concern of whether the Hong Kong construction industry will be able to handle the construction of the KYCAI, its associated infrastructure works as well as all the other projects which are either on-going or planned. The difficulties of project delivery will soon come into sharp focus.

Stonecutters bridge, Hong Kong

Stonecutters Bridge (David Feehan)

Contract Dispute Consultants is Hong Kong’s leading construction claims and disputes consultancy assisting clients on the most complex construction projects around the world. Recent assignments include identification of technical claims for a joint venture contractor on a major bridge project in North America; preparation of design claims for a light rail PPP project in Canada; and advising, preparing for and managing mediation proceedings for a contractor on an airport terminal building in Hong Kong.