The Hong Kong Executive Council has given the go-ahead for the Hong Kong section of the $8.41bn (H$65.2bn) Guangdong-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link (XRL) project.

The 26km underground rail section will run from West Kowloon in Hong Kong to Huanggang and ultimately connect with the XRL Mainland section.

The complete XRL project involves building a 140km rail line from the Hong Kong terminus at West Kowloon to Shibi in Guangzhou, with intermediate stations at Futian, Longhua and Humen.

The railway will allow trains to run at 300kmph, halving travel time between Hong Kong and Guangzhou to just 50 minutes.

The railway will connect Hong Kong to the mainland’s 16,000km high-speed network and will allow passengers to reach Xiamen from Hong Kong in four hours, Wuhan in five hours, Shanghai in eight hours and Beijing in ten hours.

Construction of the section is expected to begin before the end of 2009.