Construction of two road and rail tunnels, part of a stalled US$488M infrastructure project, will finally proceed after Hong KongÕs High Court threw out a legal challenge to the scheme.

The tunnels will be built by a joint venture, between Leighton Contractors (Asia), China State Construction Engineering Corporation and Van Oord-ACZ, which won a contract last year to reclaim land from Victoria Harbour.

The project stalled following a row over the legality of the reclamation and whether it breached Hong Kong laws. A judge rejected the challenge in mid-March, which means that the joint venture will now be able to go ahead and build an extension to the overrun tunnel for the Airport Express and Tung Chung lines.

The MTR Corp said the existing tunnel, built in the mid-1990s, posed safety concerns because it was too short to allow for train overruns as a result of human error or defective equipment. The extension will solve this problem.

The tunnels will also form the initial stage of the MTR Corp’s North Island Line that could be built towards the end of this decade.

The reclamation work also allows the construction of the first stage of the Central and Wan Chai bypass, an underground highway running along the northern shore of Hong Kong Island.