The Taipa section of the under-construction light rail transit system in Macau, known as the LRT and designed to move visitors and locals around the city, is likely to be operational by 2019, said the Secretary for Transport and Public Works, Raimundo do Rosário (pictured centre).
The Taipa section was originally slated to start operating next year. The bulk of construction on that stretch of the system began in 2012.
Building work for the Taipa portion “would be completed in 2016, and in 2017 the track and other mechanical parts will be installed,” Mr Rosário said during a question and answer session at a plenary sitting on Wednesday of Macau’s Legislative Assembly.
“We hope that by 2019 the Taipa section [of the LRT] can already be operational,” he added.
The Taipa portion of the project, which includes stops serving the Cotai casino resorts, will be 9.3-kilometres (5.8-miles) long and have a total of 11 stations. That stretch of the system will also connect to Macau International Airport and the new Pac On ferry terminal located near the airport.
No timetable has yet been announced for the start of construction on the Macau peninsula section of the rail link.
Mr Rosário conceded the delays to the Taipa section were caused by a setback in the building of a rail depot on Taipa. The government has already terminated the contract with the company originally hired to do the work and is seeking a new contractor.
The official stated the government would publicly invite bids in the second quarter of next year to build the LRT depot, and is “expecting to resume construction in 2016”.
Investment analysts have expressed concerns that with the Macau gaming market increasingly focusing on mass market customers, any delays beyond the end of 2016 regarding public infrastructure could be a negative for the new Cotai resorts. The resorts are opening on various dates between this year and the end of 2017.
Mr Rosário said on Wednesday the government expects “to launch in late 2016” the tender for the construction of the LRT station at Barra on the Macau peninsula. It will the first stop connecting the peninsular section to the Taipa section via the Sai Van bridge.
He gave no details on the latest cost estimates for the LRT system. A report in early 2015 from Macau’s public spending watchdog said that by September 2012 the budget for the first phase of the rail system had reached MOP14.3 billion (US$1.8 billion). That was up from the estimated MOP4.2 billion when the project was announced in 2007.
In April, Mr Rosário had told the Legislative Assembly that the Taipa section alone had already consumed MOP9 billion of the public finances.
On Wednesday, the secretary additionally said construction of the Pac On ferry terminal at Taipa would be completed by year-end. The new ferry terminal, close to the airport, should be operational by mid-2016, added Mr Rosário.
The terminal is already more than five years late and more than five times over its original budget. It was originally scheduled to be operational by 2009.
Union Gaming Research LLC said in a report on Wednesday that the opening of Pac On was likely to be a positive event for the Cotai casino resorts, “redirecting some level of visitation volume away from the peninsula to Cotai”.
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Ambrose So Shu Fai
Vice-chairman and chief executive at Macau casino operator SJM Holdings