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27Jan94 HONG KONG: RISING LAND PRICES AID HK AIRPORT LINK.

Hong Kong's rising land prices have boosted the viability of building the troubled airport railway, according to property experts.Construction of the 35km express and commuter railway is estimated at HK$22 billion (£2 billion), but new estimates show the sale of land development rights along the route would bring in nearly three times this figure.But China refuses to give its approval because it believes the railway will saddle it with years of debt after it gains control of Hong Kong in July 1997.According to official figures, land prices in Hong Kong have more than doubled since estimates for the airport railway were prepared in 1991.Experts believe the Mass Transit Railway Corporation could earn HK$60 billion from the 62 ha it plan to sell along the route of the railway.Samuel Wong, a legislative councillor, claimed this figure was a conservative estimate and the return could be higher.His comments were echoed by Shih Wing, managing director of Centaline Property Agencies, a leading Hong Kong estate agent, who said land costs in Hong Kong had risen by up to 300 per cent in two years.Meanwhile, Roger Moss, MTRC finance director, has warned that completion of the airport railway before the 1997 handover look unlikely. CONSTRUCTION NEWS