Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Transport links gird HK's super-connector role

Chief Executive CY Leung

When it comes to doing business, Hong Kong has been blessed, and unusually so, with connectivity. We are, as I always like to say, the super-connector - the essential business link between the rest of China and the rest of the world.


Our connectivity begins with the luck of the draw - that great good fortune of being the evergreen gateway of China. As the Mainland of China began to open its doors to the world more than 30 years ago, Hong Kong took early, and full, advantage of our historic ties to China - ties rooted in shared heritage, culture and language, in connections, both on personal and business levels, throughout the country, and throughout history. That connectivity continues to grow, to spread and deepen.


But what really sets us apart from other cities is our "one country, two systems" arrangement. It means that, when you are in Hong Kong, you are in China, an economy growing at phenomenal speed and a market with tremendous potential. But we are different from other Chinese cities. We practise the "other system". This singular arrangement gives Hong Kong opportunities no other economy in the world can match.


I discussed this, in some detail, at the opening, yesterday, of Think Asia, Think Hong Kong, so I shan't go into detail now. It's enough to say that, thanks to our super-connector role, Hong Kong is leading the way in the internationalisation of the renminbi, the Mainland's currency, and other financial initiatives created to liberalise the Mainland's capital markets - to bring the world to Mainland China and help Mainland China take its capital, and its companies, out to the world.


Convenient transport links

But beyond connecting China and the world through business, trade and finance, we are also expanding our connectivity in that most basic ways. Through, for example, infrastructure - building transport links to bring a world of business back and forth between Hong Kong and Mainland China.


Railways are central to our transportation strategy. We're now racing ahead with four railway projects - three domestic railway lines and a cross-boundary express rail link.


The mass capabilities of rail will allow us to connect Mainland China with Hong Kong and the world even more efficiently. Last year, we welcomed nearly 61 million visitors - including some 40 million from the Mainland of China.


The extraordinary number of Mainland Chinese who visit Hong Kong for business and pleasure - the pleasure of shopping, for the most part - is a big reason why nearly 7,600 foreign companies are based in Hong Kong.


One of these companies is Nanoleaf, which is a green technology start-up with a business of producing energy-efficient light bulbs, has chosen to base its operations in Hong Kong, precisely because they would showcase their technology to the world easily, given the millions of international and Mainland travelers that visit Hong Kong.


That, too, is connectivity. Nanoleaf, by the way, was founded by three young Canadian entrepreneurs, all University of Toronto graduates, in 2012.


Rail links bolstered

Our cross-boundary link, known as the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, or XRL, will connect Hong Kong to key Pearl River Delta cities and to Mainland China's 16,000-kilometre, high-speed rail network.


The Hong Kong section will stretch for 26 kilometres and will greatly shorten travel between Hong Kong and key points in the Mainland. It will, for example, take less than 50 minutes to reach Guangzhou, which is the biggest metropolitan city in the southern part of China, compared to the two hours it takes now. It will get businesspeople to Shanghai in about eight hours, compared to some 18 hours today. And Beijing travelers will reach Hong Kong in 10 hours compared to about 24 hours now.


I am particularly optimistic that, after the opening of the service, the XRL could be a welcome alternative for business travel between Hong Kong and Beijing. A good night's sleep in the cabin, and when you wake up, you would be ready for a full day's work in Hong Kong or Beijing.


In short, the XRL will extend Hong Kong's connectivity with the Mainland. It will strengthen our strategic position as the southern gateway to China. And it will expand our cross-boundary business, as well as our cultural and academic exchanges with Mainland China.


We hope to see the line in operation by the end of 2017. We'll know better in the next few months, following a review of the programme's construction progress.


More than rail, we're also expanding our road connectivity with the Mainland. Construction of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, which includes a 30-kilometre, dual three-lane carriageway, began in December 2009. When completed, it will connect Hong Kong directly with Macau and the Special Economic Zone in Zhuhai.


The port city of Zhuhai is strategically located in the Western Pearl River Delta (PRD). With the completion of the Bridge, the Western PRD will fall within a reachable, three-hour commute from Hong Kong. That will enhance our position as a trade and logistics hub. It will also accelerate our economic integration with the PRD and its neighbouring provinces.


Flying high

As I mentioned earlier, Hong Kong's connectivity begins with our prime location - not only as the premiere gateway to China, but at the heart of Asia. And it's our international airport that makes that connectivity fly.


We are strategically located within five hours' flying time of half the world's population. More than 100 airlines operate about 1,100 flights every day out of Hong Kong International Airport, which serves about 180 global destinations, including more than 45 in Mainland China. And that makes us in terms of passenger throughput today as the third busiest airport in the world. Indeed, the Hong Kong International Airport, in terms of passenger throughput, as said, is the third largest and in terms of freight, the largest in the world.


In Hong Kong, cross-boundary coaches, as well as limousine and ferry services, further connect air passengers with southern China's Pearl River Delta. About 550 scheduled coach trips are made daily to link Hong Kong International Airport with 110 Mainland cities and towns, while our SkyPier connects with eight Pearl River Delta ports, including Guangzhou, Nansha, Macau, Shenzhen and Zhuhai.


It's not only the infrastructure. Service counts, too. Over the years, Hong Kong's international airport has been named the finest airport in the world more than 50 times by travellers and industry professionals. Convenient, efficient, user-friendly air services are cornerstone of our connectivity to the world.


Runway to boost capacity

To maintain our critical edge in air connectivity, we will add a third runway to the airport, with a target completion of 2023. The three-runway airport will have the capacity to handle some 100 million passengers and nearly 9 million tonnes of cargo a year by 2030. That will bump up our passenger capability by about one-third. It will also more than double today's cargo capacity of 4.3 million tonnes. It will, of course, enhance connectivity between the Mainland and the world by playing the transit role.


So Hong Kong is gearing up for future opportunities. The Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge and the third runway of our airport will greatly improve and expand our connectivity. Our super-connector role between the Mainland and the rest of the world will be further strengthened, creating massive opportunities for our economy and for our business partners, including our business partners in Canada.


I believe in the power of connectivity. I believe that the connections we're building today - via rail, by road and in the air, and more importantly between peoples of Hong Kong and Canada - will reward us all tomorrow. You are most welcome to come to Asia, come to Hong Kong, to experience what connectivity can offer. Think Asia, think Hong Kong.


Chief Executive CY Leung gave this remarks at a breakfast seminar co-hosted by the Hong Kong-Canada Business Association and the Toronto Region Board of Trade.

Otmane El Rhazi
Department of Commerce
Economic Development
Text/Mobile, +44 7414 782 320

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