Light rail unchanged despite opposition

Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Issue 1085, Page 4
Word count: 936
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

The first phase of the light rail transit will likely go through Rua de Londres in Nape, despite neighbourhood opposition to the route due to fire safety and noise pollution concerns, the Transportation Infrastructure Office’s (GIT) coordinator Lei Chan Tong disclosed at the Legislative Assembly yesterday.

Meanwhile, Secretary for Transport and Public Works Lau Si Io said that if the route is to be changed right now to run through the outer area instead of the inner area (Rua de Londres and Rua Cidade do Porto) in Nape, the operation of the light rail system will face a serious delay of at least four years since it will then have to take into consideration the new city reclamation project.

The secretary and his cabinet attended the plenary meeting at the legislature to answer the oral interpellations from four lawmakers.

According to Lei Chan Tong, after studying and analysing the opinions and related research reports collected since 2003, the Government has decided that the Rua de Londres route will “best meet the public interest”.

Lei said that the Government “understands” the concerns of the residents living in that area, however he stressed that the decision is within the fire safety standards and soundproof walls can be installed along the rail tracks, which will “effectively minimise the noise”.

If the neighbourhood does not prefer the soundproof walls, Lei said the Government is willing to install soundproof windows for all the affected residents on the streets.

He also said the GIT will try to lower the height of the rail tracks as much as possible, in order to minimise the obstruction of day light into the apartments.

The Secretary for Transport and Public Works told the lawmakers that it was “impossible” to come up with a route proposal that will make all the 540,000 Macau residents happy.

“The construction of the light rail may bring traffic jam, air pollution and influences to businesses, but there is no such thing as zero impact and the Government can only try to minimise it,” Lau added.

If the light rail is to run outside of the reclaimed area in Nape, the secretary said it is technically not feasible to build the rail tracks underground; however, if elevated tracks are to be built, they will also “destroy the coastal landscape” there.

Moreover, if the light rail transit chooses to go through the outer area of Nape, Lau said it must have to complement the new city reclamation project, which is expected to have a final proposal in 2012.

“In this case the opening of the light rail will have to push back for at least four years. It’s not only about the time problem, but the cost will also soar significantly. In 2007 the cost was forecasted at MOP 4.2 billion, and it jumped to MOP 7.5 billion in 2009,” he said.

Director of the Transport Bureau Wong Wan also said that if the light rail construction is postponed, the entire traffic network of Macau will enter “a state of paralysis”.

Urban planning law, public housing

The secretary disclosed that the Government expects to start drafting urban planning legislation and related supplementary laws and regulations in 2011, in the hope to have them completely in effect after three years.

Lau said that the developer of the two land parcels in Fai Chi Kei that were auctioned off in 2008 had previously requested a change to the land use, but since the proposal failed to meet the existing city planning requirements the Government had denied the request.

“We’ve already completed the work that needed to be done after banning the proposal and we’re now waiting for the developer’s response,” he added.

In response to lawmaker Ho Ion Sang’s inquiry, the secretary said the Government is working on the final version of the draft law to revise the affordable housing legislation, “it is hoped that the work can be finished in the next two months so that we can present the bill to the legislature once it comes back from the summer break in mid-October”.

Lau Si Io declined to disclose the proportion of affordable and social housing units in the Government’s 19,000 public housing unit target by the end of 2012.

He said it can only be confirmed when more data is available.

Yet, he called the 12,000 households who have submitted affordable housing applications back in 2003 “applicants” only, pointing out that their eligibility had not been verified at that time.

On the other hand, director of the Telecommunications Regulation Bureau (DSRT) Lawrence Tou Veng Keong told the lawmakers that the MOP 800 monthly charge of CTM’s newly launched 100Mbps residential fiber broadband service has not yet been approved by the Government.

Tou said the DSRT plans to ask CTM for information relating to the operating costs of the service as well as to find out in which aspects there may be room for a reduction of the service charge.

Standard consultation guidelines

Director of the Public Administration and Civil Service Bureau Jose Chu, in response to Mak Soi Kun’s inquiry, said that the Government has already formulated a set of guidelines for all public departments to follow when launching public consultations.

The guidelines cover the organisation process, preliminary preparation as well as how to summarise the opinions collected and explain to the public the findings and why certain opinions are not accepted.

Chu admitted that consultation work between public departments “vary” at present and there is “big room to improve”.

Yet, he stressed that “fake consultations” did not exist and the Government has “always attached great importance to what the public think”.

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