Waiting on the train

Government representatives affirmed yesterday that the Taipa portion of the Light Rail Transit system (LRT) would be completed in 2019, however members of the follow-up committee for land and pubic concession affairs stated that they are in doubt ‘as it’s unknown whether this will be completed within the three and a half years remaining,’ as noted in the commission’s report.
The commission added that if the Taipa portion of the transit system were to suffer further delays, it could ‘dash the anxious expectations of the population’ and cause them to lose faith in the government.
Government representatives at yesterday’s committee meeting admitted their lack of experience in the infrastructure construction, saying ‘this is a novelty […] in terms of the number of workers, technical experience and professional capacity [and] administrative efficiency,’ claiming they are ‘facing various difficulties’.
To compensate for these difficulties, the government is opting to contract more specialists, stating that there is a necessity to find ‘new solutions’ as well as ‘extinguish’ the Transportation Infrastructure Office (GIT), replacing it with a government-owned company ‘similar to the Airport Administration [ADA]’.
The committee noted that it ‘believes this corporate model is more adequate for the future operation of the Light Rail’. The government representatives also assured the committee that they would offer more detailed information about the creation and functioning of the company in the future.
New mechanism
Another way the government hopes to accelerate the LRT construction process is through a “new mechanism of awards and penalties,” noted Legislator Ho Ion Sang, speaking to the press after the committee meeting.
“We will try to see if we can actually – through these [measures] – resolve the problems of the construction works in terms of time and the problem of cost,” said Ho.
The commission report notes that ‘the government is fighting to create new ideas, adopting new forms,’ referring to the new award/penalty system. The new system, to be implemented in the new tender for the superstructure of the machinery and repair works of the LRT, divides the building works into 14 milestones. If a contractor can achieve all the milestones, ‘to encourage it to complete the works early,’ it can win a ‘prize’ equivalent to eight per cent of the tender. If it is unable to do this, ‘all prizes will be cancelled,’ notes the report. The committee noted that private construction projects are concluded ‘often within the deadlines or even early’, while public projects are ‘repeatedly’ finalised ‘past the deadlines and with an excess of expenditure’.
Macau connection
Pointing out the difficulties in starting the LRT construction work on the peninsula, the government representatives affirmed that it would be necessary to divide the project into segments based on their importance and urgency, concentrating first on finalizing the Taipa line – 9.3 kilometers and 11 stations – before moving on to the connection to the Barra station, and then on to the works on the Seac Pai Van line – two kilometers and two stations. In addition, the representatives noted that the government is currently in talks with its counterparts in Mainland China regarding the Lotus Border Gate LRT station and a possible connection to Hengqin Island. The representatives however could not yet provide ‘more detailed information’. In regards to the peninsula portion of the LRT, the government will conduct a ‘general consideration’ involving Zone A of the reclaimed land areas, the artificial island for the border crossing of the Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai bridge. Decisions will be made within this year, as well as on a ‘respective financial budget’, with the ‘next step’ being an analysis of a plan to connect the line to the Gongbei border crossing. The government also assured that for the Seac Pai Van line, it would no longer use a phased tender process, and would adjust the committee-suggested ‘guiding line of the tender’.
Additionally, in a separate committee report, the group noted that the probability that the first two phases of the Island Hospital complex would be completed on time, respectively in 2019 and 2020, was ‘minimal’, with legislator Ho noting that “there’s a lack of coordination between the entities [involved]”. The government representatives noted that there was ‘margin for improvement’ and that in neighboring regions, hospital construction projects took around 10 years to complete.