Midland Strategy, The Container Terminal, and Land Supply

Urban planning

The CBD3 (Third Central Business District) plan of the government, which proposes a huge artificial island at Kau Yi Chau approximately halfway between Hong Kong Island and Lantau, is probably rooted deep in the public consciousness by now. While it enjoys the strategic location in between Central, Kowloon and the airport and has the potential to spawn new infrastructure (as the proposed “Strategic Studies on Railways and Major Roads beyond 2030” may show), it might not be the best place to construct a new CBD after all.

Being of considerable distance from most major population centres (let alone major labour sources), the potential for the proposed artificial island to develop and prosper is in doubt. The City of Victoria took over a century under the tutelage of the colonial bureaucrats and taipans to come into prominence as one of the world’s major financial centres, and the East Kowloon CBD has all the industrial buildings and infrastructure for it to make a considerable jumpstart (not to mention being in the district with the densest population in all of Hong Kong), but CBD3 has none of these qualities. What’s more, all the transport infrastructure has to be developed anew, and we’re talking about transporting hundreds of thousands of passengers in an hour.

Now consider the Tsuen Wan area, which consists of Tsuen Wan and Kwai Tsing Districts. There’s already many people and businesses there—it’s a city of 800,000. So, why not move the Container Terminal to the sea and build the CBD3 there?

Let’s call the area Midland. In fact, I like to use Midland to describe all of the Tsuen Wan area from Tai Mo Shan to Lai Chi Kok Bay, from Tsing Lung Tau to Shing Mun (again, that’s Tsuen Wan and Kwai Tsing Districts combined—did anyone forget that the latter is a “breakaway” district of the former?) It’s really the geographic centre of Hong Kong.

midland CBD location.png

With the majority of the population in the New Territories, the Midland Strategy will save commuting times for a lot of people.

midland CBD spatial concept.png

We already have four railway stations which we can put into good use. Plus, we will get the opportunity to develop a whole new CBD on principles of sustainable development in the footsteps of Kai Tak.

(I actually submitted the plan right before the deadline of the HK2030+ consultation—not sure if they received it?)

Perhaps I’m not alone in proposing to move the Container Terminal. Our HK Foundation proposed that as well, without going into the planning details. (Article in Chinese)

Or build a podium over the Container Terminal directly like this article proposes? (Article also in Chinese) Either way, the Midland CBD is way sounder than a CBD on some artificial island at the middle of the sea.

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Railway provision in Hong Kong – the geographical disparity

Urban planning

I’m taking three transport electives this semester and find it interesting to think about transport problems once a while (actually I’ve almost always been doing this). When it comes to essay topic – eureka! This is it – or maybe the statistical base for some bigger topic.

Yes, the geographical disparity of railway provision in Hong Kong – if you’re resident in the New Territories chances are that long commutes are an indivisible part of your daily routine, whether on a sardine-packed train or a bus stuck in the traffic. And as we Hongkongers all know but won’t always readily admit – the New Territories are inferior in terms of economic opportunities, transport infrastructure, … you name it.

Here is an analysis of railway provision across the 18 districts of Hong Kong, done on the basis of the planned 2031 railway network (search for “Railway Development Strategy 2014”) and the projected population by then. In the table below there are figures for the number of stations, internal segments and external segments (a segment being a section of the network between two stations) per 100000 people in each district. Here “people” is calculated by the average of residents and jobs (I have to take both into account to make things fair, but if I simply added them up I’ll double-count). Without further ado, the table: (click to access the pdf file)

mtr-density

The number of stations per 100000 people, visualised: (the deeper colour the higher share)

Main points:

  1. The traditional CBD districts (C&W, Wanchai, YTM) have a higher share than most districts
  2. Southern and Shatin have an exceptionally high share of stations for their population size; this is due to Ma On Shan Line and South Island Line which were built as medium-sized systems
  3. Islands District also has a higher share than many (Tung Chung is actually planned to house 250000 people and will have three stations, although here the population is forecast directly by overall population growth in Hong Kong; I’ve already excluded Airport and AsiaWorld Expo from the station count)
  4. Given Kwun Tong’s role as the second CBD, the share is disappointing (the upcoming Kai Tak EFTS will help things a bit, but no high hopes on that); not very surprising if you’ve seen the rush hour crowds at Kwun Tong Station by yourself?
  5. Those with the least share are all in the north and northwest; perhaps not surprisingly Tuen Mun has the least share? (Light Rail is not counted but it replaced the internal bus network wholesale at its inauguration, so fair enough)

Indeed, if you searched for the railway map of Hong Kong you’ll realise that the network by 2031 will still very much be a radial one, the only real cross-country link being the Northern Link straddling the borderlands. Tuen Mun will be having a new tunnel to Lantau in the near future but it’ll probably still be the “Land’s End” for most Hongkongers for decades to come.

Maybe it’d be great if the planners changed their mindset already and aim the New Towns at being full-fledged cities more or less on par with Kowloon or Victoria, instead of being “second-class bedroom communities”?