The Hong Kong government has temporarily shelved plans to raise funds to build a footbridge in West Kowloon expected to cost taxpayers HK$350 million, citing lawmakers’ concerns over costs.
If completed, the proposed 84 metre-long, 7 metre-wide Artist Square Bridge built above Austin Road West would connect the MTR’s Kowloon Station to the West Kowloon Cultural District.
After the Home Affairs Bureau and the Civil Engineering and Development Department made a series of West Kowloon-related funding requests to the Legislative Council last month, pro-democracy lawmakers took notice of the cost of the footbridge.
“[This is] a heavenly-priced footbridge to go along with the tens of billions spent in West Kowloon – a bottomless pit,” said Civic Party legislator Tanya Chan.
The cost of the entire footbridge has been split into two separate funding items, each of which was bundled together with other funding requests – such as for road works and basement structures – and submitted to the legislature for approval.
The 69-metre, HK$290 million main section of the bridge has been placed into the “infrastructure works” funding request package.
An “integrated basement” funding request package includes the 15-metre, HK$60 million remaining section of the bridge.
Exclusion of items
In an updated “integrated basement” funding proposal submitted on Monday, the government said it was now reviewing the entire footbridge project with the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority – the statutory body managing the cultural district.
“Accordingly, we have excluded the cost of the remaining section of the Artist Square Bridge… and will incorporate it into the funding application for the Artist Square Bridge when the project is ready for submission to LegCo.”
The government has not yet submitted an updated funding request for the “infrastructure works” package.
In response to enquiries from Apple Daily, the head of the Civil Engineering and Development Department said in April that the footbridge was expensive because it would be situated 15 metres above the ground, above a flyover for motor vehicles.
“We believe this is close to the market price,” added the permanent secretary of the Home Affairs Bureau.
In recent months, the West Kowloon Cultural District has been under the spotlight after chief executive-elect signed an agreement to build a HK$3.5 billion replica of Beijing’s Palace Museum in the district. The board of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority approved the project earlier in May.