Rosário ‘optimistic’ on Beijing’s authorisation of land lease for LRT East Line’s extension soon

2023-11-30 03:30     BY Tony Wong    Comment:2

Secretary for Transport and Public Works Raimundo do Rosário said yesterday that he is “optimistic” that the central government would formalise its authorisation of the Macau government’s lease of a plot of land from Zhuhai “in the near future” so that Macau’s Light Rail Transit (LRT) East Line could be extended to the Qingmao checkpoint.

Rosário made the remarks during yesterday’s one-day Q&A session in the Legislative Assembly’s (AL) hemicycle about his portfolio’s policy guidelines for next year.

Without the extension to the Qingmao checkpoint in Ilha Verde, the ongoing LRT East Line project, which got off the ground last month, is building a 7.7-kilometre-long LRT East Line connecting the Barrier Gate checkpoint at the peninsula’s northern tip and the Pac On Ferry Terminal via the Zone A and Zone E1 land reclamation areas. The East Line will cross the sea between Zone A and Zone E1 through an undersea tunnel.

The project, which is earmarked to cost 9.28 billion patacas, is scheduled to be completed in 2028.

Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng revealed in September last year that the central government has decided to allow the Macau government to lease the 3,700-square-metre V-shaped plot, which is located next to the Barrier Gate checkpoint but owned by Zhuhai, so that the LRT East Line could be extended to the Qingmao checkpoint.

As the central government had still not formalised its authorisation of the leasehold, the Macau government decided to hire construction companies to carry out the East Line project without the extension to the Qingmao checkpoint first, but the project’s design will allow for the extension after the central government formalises its authorisation of the leasehold.

During yesterday’s Q&A session, Rosário noted that once the leasehold gets off the ground, the LRT station to serve the Barrier Gate checkpoint, i.e., the ES1 station of the ongoing LRT East Line project, could be expanded so that it would be closer to the Barrier Gate checkpoint, making it a shorter walking distance for LRT passengers between the station and the checkpoint.

However, in this case, the policy secretary said, the East Line project’s cost and duration would increase, adding that that’s why he had previously underlined that the project would possibly be affected by budget overruns and construction delays, even with just the ES1 station’s expansion and without the desired extension to the Qingmao checkpoint.

Rosário said that if the V-shaped plot’s leasehold does get off the ground, the Macau government would “certainly again study the possibility” of extending the LRT East Line to the Qingmao checkpoint.

Govt to only pay up to 4.99 billion patacas to MTR

Meanwhile, Rosário said that the Macau government would “certainly” only have to pay up to 4.99 billion patacas to Hong Kong’s MTR eventually for its agreement to operate the LRT system, which will expire at the end of next year. The agreement has a price tag of 5.88 billion patacas.

The LRT system is owned by the local government through its Macau Light Rapid Transit Corporation Limited (MLM) but its operation has been outsourced to Hong Kong’s MTR Railway Operations (Macau) Company Limited.

According to the agreement, the MTR is required to operate the LRT system for the first five years since it started operating in December 2019. The MTR deal also covered the LRT system’s various pre-opening preparation work.

Currently, the LRT only operates on the 9.3-kilometre-long Taipa section which includes Cotai, which started operating on December 10, 2019. A new section connecting Taipa and the Macau peninsula’s Barra via Sai Van Bridge will open on Friday next week.

Rosário noted yesterday that the MTR agreement had an initial price tag of 5.88 billion patacas, but now he was “certain” that the government will only have to pay up to 4.99 billion patacas eventually upon the expiration of the MTR agreement at the end of next year.

The Macau government has said that local operator MLM has gradually been taking more and more work over from MTR to operate the LRT system.

Elevated walkways

Meanwhile, Rosário also said that the government would soon launch a public tender for its covered elevated walkway project along Avenida do Nordeste in the peninsula’s Areia Preta district, which would also be extended to future nearby stations of the ongoing LRT East Line project.

The Avenida do Nordeste elevated walkway will be the second of its kind in the city. Macau’s first covered elevated walkway, i.e., the one along Avenida de Guimarães (基馬拉斯大馬路) in central Taipa, came into use in June 2021.

Moreover, the policy secretary revealed yesterday that the government is currently designing a project to build a covered elevated walkway along Taipa’s Avenida de Kwong Tung (廣東大馬路), which is located near Avenida de Guimarães.

Rosário said that the elevated walkway project along Avenida de Kwong Tung aims to make it easier for residents to walk to the LRT Taipa section’s Stadium station.

Sai Van Bridge ‘able to support’ LRT 

Meanwhile, Public Works Bureau (DSOP) Director Lam Wai Hou said during yesterday’s session that the government was “certain” that the upcoming operation of the LRT Taipa-Barra section, which will run along Sai Van Bridge’s lower enclosed deck, will not affect the bridge’s structure at all.

Lam said that the government had hired the designer of the bridge, which opened in 2005, to carry out assessments on the matter, which concluded that the bridge is able to fully support the LRT operation. Lam also said that the matter has also been verified by data collected during train operation tests on the Taipa-Barra section, which started early this year.

Meanwhile, Lam also said that the government would finally launch a project to build a vehicular tunnel under Big Taipa Hill next year. He noted that the tunnel will enable vehicles from Friendship Bridge and from the future fourth Macau-Taipa Bridge, the construction of which is scheduled to be completed next year, to travel to Cotai more directly. 

This undated aerial photo released by the Public Works Bureau (DSOP) last year shows the V-shaped plot next to the Barrier Gate checkpoint indicated by the blue area.

Secretary for Transport and Public Works Raimundo do Rosário addresses yesterday’s Q&A session about his portfolio’s 2024 policy guidelines in the Legislative Assembly’s (AL) hemicycle. – Photo: GCS

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