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Customs wrangles a stumbling block to rail link
By Colleen Lee
Published: Oct 23 2009 9:52
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HONG KONG: Commuters of the future, ready to climb aboard the high-speed rail link to the mainland, may find that "the system" is not ready for them. For example, passengers may not be able to access immigration and customs clearance from either Hong Kong or mainland authorities at the West Kowloon high-speed rail terminus when the line goes into operation in 2015, a top official said.

Secretary for Transport and Housing Eva Cheng told lawmakers that the government is still discussing the matter with mainland authorities and will not underestimate the complexity of the legal problems involved.

"At the start, we may be unable to arrange mainland and Hong Kong clearance services to be provided at the same place," she said. "We are proactively studying the problem."

She said an inter-departmental expert panel is seeking ways to sort out the issue.

The government is also negotiating with the mainland authorities, she said.

In a subcommittee meeting of the Legislative Council's transport panel, legislator Chan Kam-lam said it will be ideal if passengers can get all clearance at the West Kowloon terminus, so they will have no need to go through checks again when getting off at mainland stops.

"It will be cumbersome even if the checks are done on board," he said.

Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung also said it will be time-saving if commuters can get clearance from two parties in one place.

Lau Kong-wah, a lawmaker and an Executive Council member, said the construction of the express rail stations in 16 major mainland cities are almost completed or already in the design process.

He urged the government to hurry in deciding arrangements for clearance.

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