Hong Kong’s MTR Corp is eyeing the development of three underground metro lines in the Chinese capital, Beijing, that are estimated to cost nearly US$3.86bn and total 69km of new line.

A MTR Corp spokeswoman confirmed it is likely to submit proposals to operate and develop Lines 5, 9 and 10 of the Beijing metro. “We are interested in projects if they are on the right terms. It is too early to talk about investment details as the Beijing municipal government has recently asked us to submit investment proposals for the projects,” she said.

The US$1.45bn 27.6km long Line 5, which runs from Songjiazhuang station via Beijing city centre to Taipingzhuang station, is due to become operational next year after construction started in 2002. Tunnelling on the 16.8km Line 9, which is estimated to cost US$797M, will start next year and connect facilities for the 2008 Olympic Games such as the World Park to the Capital Gymnasium. The US$1.55bn 24.6km first phase of Line 10 will connect the Haidian district eastwards along the Fourth Ring Road to Jinsong station. Completion is expected at the end of 2007.

The MTR Corp confirmed its interest in the projects after signing a concession agreement to develop, finance and operate the US$1.85bn, 29km Line 4, with the Beijing municipal government. The long-awaited deal ends more than a year of discussions between the MTR Corp, its Beijing-based partners and Beijing city officials.

Line 4 will be the main north-south underground rail link in Beijing when completed in 2008. The line, which will have 24 stations, will connect Ma Jia Lou station on the South Fourth Ring Road to Long Bei Cun station in Beijing’s Hai Dian district in the north-west of the city.

MTR Corp said it has formed a joint development company with partners, Beijing Infrastructure Investment (BIIC) and Beijing Capital Group (BCG), to build, finance and operate Line 4. The move coincides with the delivery of two earth pressure balanced (EPB) shield tunnel boring machines to excavate tunnels on the line. The 6.14m diameter machines were ordered from Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries by contractor, China Construction First Group. BIIC, BCG and China Construction are all offshoots of the Beijing government.

The MTR Corp said the joint company will invite tenders shortly for the supply and installation of electrical and mechanical equipment including rolling stock. Mitsubishi’s order for the two TBMs takes to 29 the total number of shield tunnelling machines purchased by Chinese companies.