The Sunday Post today carries a heartfelt letter to the editor arguing that the Hong Kong taxpayer should indeed blow HK$59 billion on a 16-mile stretch of rail track:
Why Hong Kong needs an express rail link
It was interesting to read the comments by Raymond So Wai-man, of Chinese University, on the new high speed connection to Guangzhou (“Is express link on the wrong track?”, November 1).
It has been almost 100 years since the Hong Kong section of the Kowloon to Canton railway opened in April 1910, and to much the same criticisms as today. It was the most expensive railway per kilometre built in the world at that time. How could it make a profit? The governor, Sir Frederick Lugard, fought the British and Chinese governments and Legco on costs and benefits. His vision was that “Hong Kong should be the final outlet of the main trunk railway in China”.
The existing rail link to Guangzhou is totally unsuitable for the 21st century. Hong Kong needs a fast link to other parts of southern China for business and tourism, and a station that deserves the status of China’s southern terminus. The best stations are near the centre of a city, and they are easily accessible and cut down travelling times. They must give the many travellers that will come to Hong Kong from all over China the service they deserve. That makes it expensive, but it has to reap rewards for the future, and be ready for the next 100 years.
We have one of the best airports in the world; let’s have the vision to do the same with the rail link.
Rory O’Grady, Kowloon Tong
Having a nasty, sordid and shallow little mind, I immediately assume that this is the work of someone in the Hong Kong government. The Chinese propaganda machine has done this at times: concoct a missive to an English-language newspaper declaring, for example, that Tibet has been a happy, loving, integrated and inseparable part of the Chinese nation since 12,000BC, and sign it with a suspiciously bland Anglo name like Bill Jones or Simon Brown of a suitably nonentity-crammed neighbourhood like Shatin.
As we would expect, a Big Lychee official does a classier job, crafting a moniker too silly sounding to be made-up – Hibernian, indeed, to add a dash of the credibly exotic – and a bolder choice of address, namely the most expensive residential area outside Hong Kong Island. (The sort of place, in fact, where the only Westerners will be people on generous expatriate terms. Employed, in other words, by a company that makes very big money. But not finance, because he would live closer to Central. So, an industry that rakes it in from huge government contracts. Infrastructure, say.)
To confirm that there is no such person and Rory O’Grady is the figment of a government information officer’s expansive creative capacity, I Google it. And… oh, dear. Steel Structures Coordination Manager at Maeda Hitachi Yokogawa Hsin Chong JV. Proudly worked on Stonecutters Bridge, a pointless engineering marvel that, at HK$3.7 billion, looks like a bargain next to the high-speed rail link.
If the rail project suffers cost overruns comparable with those of the bridge, originally slated at HK$2.7 billion, it will cost us over HK$80 billion – a figure already predicted by some sceptics.
Where have we heard the name Hsin Chong before? It was the construction company barred from government contracts for a few years after a short-piling scandal in the late 1990s. With most of Hong Kong’s 7 million people being too dim-witted to be allowed to take part in government in any fashion, it is only natural that we can find personal links between the firm and officialdom. Specifically, HK executive council member V Nee Yeh is a scion of the company’s founding family and former chairman. Unlike letter-writers in newspapers, of course, Exco members have to declare interests.
What am I saying? There must be thousands of people in Hong Kong called Rory O’Grady.