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HK$19.4 billion more? Hong Kong airport authority ups estimate for building third runway over 50pc

Yesterday’s report to the city’s legislature says land reclamation would be complex due to disused contaminated mud pits

The cost of land formation and marine works in the airport’s third runway project is estimated to soar over 52 per cent to HK$56.2 billion, according to a paper submitted yesterday to the Legislative Council.

The Airport Authority itemised a breakdown of its total estimated construction cost for the project in a paper submitted to Legco on Thursday.

The ‘money-of-the-day’ estimates were based on the government’s price adjustment factors set out in March this year.

READ MORE: Making lots of noise about operation of Hong Kong’s airport [1]

The authority said reclamation works would require meticulous care to form 650 hectares of land north of the existing airport island.

It said this was because about 40 per cent of the reclaimed area was underlain by disused contaminated mud pits within a layer of marine mud. It said the contaminated mud was highly disturbed and was softer than its surrounding mud.

A combination of precise techniques and procedures would be adopted to strengthen the soft marine mud to be left in place. However, at the same time, the eventual land would have to be strong enough to be stable, the authority said in the document.

READ MORE: Hong Kong airport studies adding day and night flights ahead of 2-runway capacity crunch [2]

It also revealed that the cost of expanding the airport’s existing terminal two as part of the third runway project would increase to HK$16.5 billion, up from the previous estimate of HK$9.5 billion projected in 2010.

The authority said terminal two, at present only handling departures, would be expanded to serve departure, arrival and transfer operations to provide full-fledged terminal services.

The expansion would involve modifying the terminal two building and adding two annex buildings, each to the north and south side of the terminal, to house coach staging areas, arrival pick-up, loading and unloading bays as well as car parking space.


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An increase in noise from Hong Kong International Airport is an inevitable price that must be paid

Noise pollution is inevitable for anyone living near an airport. It has always been a sensitive issue for Hong Kong, where limited land area and high-density housing have long meant tight restrictions on flight movements at night. But with Hong Kong International Airport’s two runways fast approaching capacity and the earliest likely completion date of a third eight years away, it is unavoidable that for a time, more flights will have to be scheduled for later and earlier each day. Nearby residents and those living under flight paths have to understand the strains and be accepting of any proposed changes.

Saturation point for the runways is 68 flights an hour, which is expected to be reached next year. There is a possibility that with use of technology, this can be raised to 70, but that, too, will likely be only a short-term measure. The world’s busiest single-runway airport, Gatwick in Britain, can handle up to 55 flights an hour, but it does not face the same challenges. Use of mainland air space is heavily restricted and the inability to operate around-the-clock means some traffic is turned away.

Those limits have made a third runway essential to meet the projected rise in air traffic that will accompany continued growth on the mainland and in the region. Last year, the airport handled 63.3 million passengers and 100 million are forecast for 2030. No airport in the world handles as much cargo traffic and amounts of freight are also predicted to balloon.

A two-year study will be carried out by the Airport Authority to look into the feasibility and impact of more night flights. Technology may lead to quieter aircraft and better sound-proofing techniques for housing, and there is always the possibility of an opening up of mainland air space. But the most likely scenario is more night flights, which are bound to face a measure of opposition. To reject this option will mean lost business and development opportunities for Hong Kong. There is every need for those living in Tung Chung, Ma Wan and elsewhere to see developments rationally.

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Making lots of noise about operation of Hong Kong’s airport


Jake Van Der Kamp

The Airport Authority may increase take-offs at night to tackle a looming capacity crunch at Chek Lap Kok before a third runway is built …

Do you remember being told just before our new airport opened that the harbour would be its new noise channel?

Here we thought that one big plus of having a new airport far off on the northern shore of Lantau Island was that we would no longer have to put up with the noise of aircraft taking off from the old Kai Tak airport right in the centre of the harbour area.

It was certainly so if you lived on that side of the harbour and could mark the passage of time every few minutes with the thought of “There goes another one”. If you lived further west along the harbour you hardly heard it.

And then along came the Airport Authority with a message that, with the sugar coating removed: “Guess what, now you’re going to hear it all the time, and louder too, and everywhere along the harbour. That’s the new approach and take-off path.”

Civic governments elsewhere move airports out of town to get away from the noise. We moved ours out of town to get right under the noise.

They could have told us when the airport was in the feasibility stage as they already knew then where that approach path would have to go. But they didn’t.

They waited until the very last minute and then just sort of leaked it out – “Oh sorry, forgot to tell you, can’t imagine why we didn’t tell you earlier.”

Well, I can imagine. It is because our airport authority has long sold itself out to that cabal of airlines, hotelkeepers and retail landlords that calls itself the tourism industry and feels it has the right to inflict any cost or inconvenience on us for the sake of a so-called pillar industry that brings the narrow cabal a great deal and the rest of us very little.

The Airport Authority does not really serve us. It serves the greater glory of the airport, that is when it is not making ritual obeisance to the tourism industry. We are the sacrifices of this cult.

The airport’s accounts show it. Fully 92 per cent of its pre-tax earnings last year came from retail leases and other terminal commercial operations plus airport investment ventures in mainland China. The airlines use the airport at cost, a nice gift from the Hong Kong taxpayers who paid for building the whole thing.

The Airport Authority has taken such good care of the airlines, in fact, that the landing and parking charges it levies on them are now 15 per cent lower, yes, lower, than they were in 1998 when the airport was opened.

This was done despite the fact that it had on hand an independent study by a reputable British air traffic consultant, Leigh Fisher, that our airport’s charges were far lower than worldwide counterparts, the 54th lowest of 55 international airports covered.

As an inadvertently leaked paper from the deputy projects director also showed three years ago, the new airport runs about 57 per cent more flights than the old airport at Kai Tak used to do for the same number of passengers.

Congestion made Kai Tak disciplined about serving secondary mainland cities with smaller aircraft. That discipline went by the board at the new airport. In fact, the Airport Authority pitched mainland cities for more small aircraft business.

And then they turned around and pitched us for what will probably be nearly HK$200 billion for a third runway to handle the increase in passenger and cargo traffic.

They tell us that it can be paid for internally through an extra levy on passengers and cargo. But in order to raise the project finance they will of course also need a government guarantee. The taxpayer goes on the hook again.

I shall be very surprised if the first economic downturn that comes round won’t have them coming back to say that a guarantee is not enough and taxpayer cash will also have to be added to the mix.

And now they tell us that they want to keep us awake at night because we have not approved the third runway idea quickly enough.

Hong Kong airport studies adding day and night flights ahead of 2-runway capacity crunch

The number of day and night flights at Hong Kong International Airport may be increased in separate measures to head off a capacity crunch looming next year while maintaining growth before the third runway is built, lawmakers have heard.

The Airport Authority signalled at a Legislative Council meeting today that it was looking to raise daytime capacity to 70 takeoffs and landings per hour, up from the present limit of 68 – which the operator was expected to max out by next year.

Plans for the increase were part of a two-pronged approach that the authority’s chief executive, Fred Lam Tin-fuk, had in mind to boost flights in the day and at night “before the complete saturation” of the airport.

“We are conducting a study to see if we can make use of technology to increase the number from 68 onwards,” Lam said.

“[Any increase] will be very limited, to 70 air traffic movements. If we have two additional ATMs, it will be of extra help to the capacity of the airport as a whole.”

The per-hour limit of 68 aircraft movements currently translates into 420,000 in a year – because night flights are scheduled at a much reduced number of 37 an hour to avoid noise pollution.

As well, one of the two runways is closed nightly for maintenance between 1am and 7am, reducing flight handling capacity.

Even so, night-time capacity could be increased by granting new takeoff and landing slots to quieter and fuel-efficient aircraft.

This would be the subject of a new study taking up to two years, Lam announced to Legco.

“Nowadays, planes are much quieter, so we are conducting a study,” he said.

“Now if we do not increase noise pollution, is it possible to add more ATMs at night? If that is possible, it may solve half of the problems.”

Lam said, however, that the planned growth in flight handling was not a means to “replace the need for a third runway”, which had been criticised as being unnecessary.

Green Sense president Roy Tam Hoi-pong, who was running as an election candidate for the Ma Wan district council this month, said: “I don’t think the [daytime increase] is a big issue. It’s only two more flights per hour.

“[But] even if there are noise mitigation measures at night, I will not agree to increasing more flights at night because Ma Wan residents need to sleep.”

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Green Groups Decline Airport invitation to join Professional Liaison Group

For Immediate Release

(28 October 2015, Hong Kong) — Eleven leading green groups have declined the Hong Kong Airport Authority (AA)’s invitation to join the Professional Liaison Group (PLG) for the Three-Runway System Project.

The setting up of a PLG is a specific condition (2.1) under the Environmental Permit (AEP-489/2014) issued by the Environmental Protection Department under the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance: “ To enhance transparency and communication with the public.”

Following several months of communication with the Airport, green groups decided that “a more effective and efficient platform for dialogue, and a greater commitment from the Airport Authority and Government on a truly green airport” is required.

In a letter to the Airport Authority, and copied to the Director of Environmental Protection, green groups set out the following reasons for declining the invitation:

1. Deep concerns among the groups over the impacts of the three-runway project;
2. The limited mitigation measures set out under the Environmental Permit;
3. The narrow scope of the Terms of Reference for the Professional Liaison Group;
4. The absence of an independent due process for the proposed Professional Liaison Group.

Green groups noted that the PLG was limited to a technical oversight of the environmental consultant hired to monitor the contractors meeting the various technical conditions set out in the Environmental Permit. The PLG would be controlled by the Airport which act both as Chair and as Secretary. However, no resources were set aside for the Members to conduct their work independently. It was determined that participation would seriously undermine the “watch dog” and “environmental expert” roles of green groups.

The green groups who declined the invitation include Clean Air Network, Clear The Air, The Conservancy Association, Designing Hong Kong, Friends of the Earth (HK), Green Lantau Association, Green Sense, Greeners Action, Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society, The Hong Kong Bird Watching Society and Living Islands Movement.

The specific condition (2.1) under the Environmental Permit (AEP-489/2014) requires the Airport: “ To enhance transparency and communication with the public, the Permit Holder shall, no later than 3 months before the commencement of construction of the Project, set up Community and Professional Liaison Groups respectively comprising members of affected parties including local residents and relevant professional/experts to facilitate communications, enquiries and complaints handling on all environmental issues related to the Project. The Permit Holder shall take a proactive approach to disseminate information to the groups, promote community cooperation and participation and implement suitable local environmental enhancement works. All relevant information of the Project including the detailed design, the progress of construction and operation and environmental monitoring and audit results shall be provided to the groups. The Permit Holder shall inform the Director in writing the membership and terms of reference of the two groups. The Permit Holder shall make the minutes of the groups’ meetings and all papers and documents available to the public through a website.”


十一個環保團體已去信香港機場管理局,拒絕加入其就香港國際機場第三條跑道計劃設立的「三跑專業聯絡小組」(Professional Liaison Group , PLG)。






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Hong Kong authorities must reveal airspace plan before building third runway at airport

Albert Cheng says Hongkongers are right to demand some proof of a regional deal on air traffic management before a costly third runway is added to Chek Lap Kok

Officials are asking Hongkongers to take a blind leap in supporting the new runway at Chek Lap Kok. They say by the time the facility is operational in about a decade, Hong Kong will have adequate access to nearby airspace to make the HK$141.5 billion investment worthwhile.

The aviation authorities of Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China started discussing in 2004 how to maximise their respective airspace to cope with the rapid growth of commercial flights in the region. Hong Kong’s Civil Aviation Department joined with the Civil Aviation Administration of China and Civil Aviation Authority of Macau to form a working group to manage the regional air traffic, keeping in mind future expansion of the five airports in Shenzhen, Macau, Zhuhai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong.

Their meetings from 2004 to 2007 culminated in a plan for the Pearl River Delta region.

The administration is, to put it mildly, ham-fisted in planning and overseeing large-scale engineering projects

Since then, the tripartite committee has been as transparent as a black hole. Legislators, industry experts and the news media have repeatedly asked the government to produce documents to assure the public the other two parties have indeed agreed to take concrete steps to help meet Hong Kong’s need for more airspace.

So far, officials can only regurgitate what they managed to get out of the working group eight years ago, with not a word about what the three sides have done or will do for Hong Kong’s third runway. The runway alone, without the reorganisation of the surrounding airspace, will not lead to any substantial increase in airport capacity. The plan is apparently little more than a statement of intent.

The last tripartite meeting was held in 2012. I dare say, to date, no substantive advancement has been made. The best that Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung Bing-leung and other officials can do is hide behind the so-called plan, the exact content of which has never been disclosed.

One can presume there is no agreement to reorganise Hong Kong’s surrounding airspace to accommodate additional flights arising from the third runway. Without this, the new facility is doomed to be a white elephant.

Among the experts who have already spoken against the scheme are two former directors of aviation, Peter Lok Kung-nam and Albert Lam Kwong-yu, and former director of the Hong Kong Observatory Lam Chiu-ying. They, too, have also demanded to see proof of any regional cooperation on airspace. One wonders how many bureaucrats will step forward once they are free to speak their minds.

Although the Executive Council has already rubber-stamped the project, public opposition has been snowballing. At least two judicial reviews have been filed to block the construction of the runway.

The administration is, to put it mildly, ham-fisted in planning and overseeing large-scale engineering projects. The track record of Cheung and his colleagues hardly inspires public confidence in the third runway proposition. The troublesome express rail link is also in his portfolio. The scheme has a budget overrun of over HK$20 billion, while its completion date has been repeatedly delayed.

Another major infrastructure project, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, is also in troubled waters . Various parts of the reclamation for the HK$7 billion artificial island that would house the immigration facilities have shifted “up to six or seven metres”, according to reports. The Highways Department admitted the works could not be completed as scheduled by the end of next year. It could not say how long the delay would be.

Given such bitter experiences, I would not be surprised to see the final bill for the third runway exceeding HK$200 billion. The Airport Authority is now promoting its plan to impose a levy on travellers to help fund the project. It has even worked out details on how to make business-class passengers pay more.

This is a classic case of putting the cart before the horse. The new runway is heading for anything but a soft landing.

Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator.

Cathay Pacific’s green campaign takes a nose-dive as it emerges it’s recycling less and emitting more carbon dioxide than ever

Danny Lee

Cathay Pacific’s green campaign appears to have slumped, with the volume of plastic bottles it recycles dropping by more than half in the space of three years.

And the amount of carbon dioxide its planes emit into the atmosphere has reached its highest level ever.

In unveiling the airline’s latest sustainability report yesterday, chief executive Ivan Chu Kwok-leung said: “As an airline, we unavoidably emit carbon when we operate, but it’s important we do things to compensate for that so that we can leave a good legacy for the future.”


In last year, Cathay Pacific and sister company Dragonair recycled 22,360kg of plastic cups, 20,797kg of plastic bottles, and 16,933kg of aluminium cans on Cathay Pacific inbound flights to Hong Kong. Cathay managed to recycle as much as 55,000kg of plastic bottles in 2011 but has failed to sustain that level.

On Monday night Cathay blamed the falling volume of recycled waste on suppliers using lighter materials.

A company spokeswoman said: “For example, the new 9oz plastic cup used in economy class is 33 per cent lighter than the previous cup and is more elastic, durable and recyclable. This would contribute to the falling weight of our recycling materials over the years.”

Hong Kong’s biggest airline said last month that it was ramping up efforts to reduce inflight waste and source more sustainable materials.

With rising emissions, the company defended the rise. The airline explained it is operating more flights than ever before to more destinations, and flying further. Cathay and Dragonair’s fleet of 188 aircraft are also filling up with more passengers and more seats are being added. All combined means carbon emissions per passenger is lower.

“While we expect our emissions to increase in relation to our business growth, our absolute emissions cannot be viewed in isolation of our fuel efficiency improvement. Instead both need to be viewed together to get the full picture,” a Cathay spokeswoman said.

The biggest gas-guzzling aircraft, including the four-engine passenger Boeing 747 aircraft and Airbus A340, will leave the fleet by 2017.

The rise in carbon dioxide emissions may slow or fall in coming years as Cathay is set to receive the first of 48 greener jets – the Airbus A350 – in February. These use around 20 per cent less fuel.

Clear the Air’s view on meetings with the non-negotiable HK Airport Authority

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Ten Fallacies of The Three-Runway System

Mr. Wilson Fung Wing-yip from the Hong Kong Airport Authority (AAHK), several others and I spoke on May 23 at the “Beyond the Three-Runway System” forum. Mr. Fung is one of the ex-Administrative Officers whom I admire the most. He is eloquent and sharp-witted. He knows his stuff. However, he is also the will-o’-the-wisp that lures his audience into the Trap of Logical Fallacy.

“The total passenger throughput of the major airports atop the Pearl River Delta estuary will reach 300 million by 2030.”

I have always been in full support of expanding the Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) in sync with the socio-economic growth of the city. Where I disagree is with the idea that the “Three-Runway System” (the 3RS) is the best option. When Mr. Fung became Executive Director (Corporate Development) of the AAHK back in 2011, his most important mission was to hard-sell the 3RS proposal drawn up by his predecessors. The almighty AAHK, despite having the experience of formulating three HKIA Master Plans, opted for the 3RS, the least efficient and cost effective of the plans. This might be due to the fact that the 3RS could be implemented within the shortest time frame. This is the same logic that animated the initial introduction of the Chek Lap Kok Replacement Airport project back in 1989.

Interests, vested and vocal

Airlines, logistic companies, and other air transport-related industries and unions (except the flight attendants unions) would support whatever expansion project for the airport was proposed as they are not the ones to foot the bill. In general, the business sector, construction sector, professional consulting sector, subcontractors and suppliers also backed the proposal in the hope of getting a share of the financial benefits the 3RS might bring.

Those antagonists are seen by some as busybodies who challenge the Government’s authority for the sake of doing so or as radical environmentalists who push their ideals at the cost of hindering social development. Many also think that the issue is too complicated for them to comment on. Worse still, there is an obvious lack of thorough analysis by political parties and lawmakers. In these people’s minds, the 3RS seems unalterable, a ‘take it or leave it’ proposition. Under such circumstances, the AAHK is close to claiming victory in what should have been a scientific and rational skirmish of policymaking.

10 Ways to fall

“Dichotomic language and hard-selling should come to an end.”

Fallacy #1: The planning process is well justified.

First, since the Chek Lap Kok Replacement Airport started operation in 1998, the AAHK formulates an HKIA Master Plan looking 20 years ahead. Three master plans so far are updated every five years with regular review. This practice seems systematic and reliable. Truth be told, however, this is exactly what undermines the AAHK’s strategic planning and ability to grasp the best timing to implement appropriate development components in steps with demand.

The five year review builds on past reports, but the original sin of Chek Lap Kok has never been addressed, nor corrected. In the beginning, the AAHK failed to address the geographical limitations of Chek Lap Kok before the airport was built. Constrained by the mountainous terrain of Lantau Island, the two existing runways cannot operate independently from each other due to wind shear and obstacles to certain approaches. Additionally, HKIA’s airspace overlaps with some other airports in the Pearl River Delta region, which further restrains runway operation.

Second, previous master plans have never looked farther than 20 years ahead. The AAHK claims that long-term forecasts lack credibility because nobody can accurately predict what is going to happen in the future. However, the golden rule when it comes to planning strategic transport infrastructure is ‘long-term vision, one-off planning, incremental implementation, and constant review’. In other words, we should first set out a general framework, and then implement it step by step according to the needs for air transport and economic development each time. Frankly, the AAHK should come up with a planning framework that is expandable, sustainable, technically feasible and financially attainable. It might even articulate a grand proposal that is expected to support as many as four to six runways, in which lands should be reserved for future expansion, and related infrastructure planned beforehand.

Third, when formulating the five-year plans, the AAHK did not carry out any interim review examining the discrepancy between previous assumptions and the actual demand situations. Had the AAHK had done that earlier; it would not have been caught in this awkward situation. It was not until 2015 that the AAHK “suddenly” realised the actual demand in 2016 would exceed the airport’s capacity, while expansion projects remained stagnant.

Fourth, other viable proposals, such as construction of a second airport or collaboration with airports in Shenzhen and Zhuhai, were never considered seriously by the AAHK. The Executive Council never got to consider other proposals except the one and only one recommended by the AAHK.

Fifth, the AAHK did not provide an Air Traffic Impact Assessment (ATIA) report when it presented the 3RS to the Town Planning Board (TPB). The TIA is an indispensable technical document that is required whenever a development proposal is submitted to the TPB for approval. According to the AAHK’s estimation, the total passenger throughput of the major airports atop the Pearl River Delta estuary will reach 300 million by 2030. One could imagine how overcrowded our airspace will be by that time.

In the absence of an ATIA, AAHK failed to provide a Safety Risk Assessment (SRA), in accordance to International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Annex 19, on the worst scenario – during the busiest hours while anticipating bad weather conditions coupled with missed approaches and aircrafts’ mechanical failures, etc. Real Time Simulation (not only Fast Time Simulation) of aircraft movement patterns under these scenarios considering the flight paths, escape avenues and queuing loops, etc. will demonstrate if the assumed design capacity of the 3RS could be achievable or otherwise. This uncertainty will cast doubts on the operation-effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the 3RS. Such planning and decision process and procedure are likely to be subject to challenge and judicial review when the TPB gazetted the Chek Lap Kok rezoning plan on May 8.

“Once the white elephant project has taken off, there is little LegCo monitoring can do.”

Fallacy #2: The Three-Runway System has wide support from the public

The AAHK consistently claims the 3RS has gone through public consultation and is widely supported by the public. It is true the AAHK commissioned a survey conducted by the HKU Social Science Research Centre from June to September 2011, in which 24,000 respondent questionnaires were collected. According to the poll results, 80% of respondents agreed that the plan for airport expansion should be finalised as soon as possible. However, respondents were only presented with two pre-selected options: to stick with two runways, or to build the 3RS. Two other options, ‘dual airport system’ and ‘Cross-Pearl River Delta collaboration’ simply went unmentioned. How can this survey be credible?

Fallacy #3: A mutually-beneficial air traffic management system can be achieved with the support of the Central Government

As mentioned, when the total passenger throughput of the five airports in the Pearl River Delta region amounts to 300 million, airspace constraints and risk management concerns mean all airports in the region might not be able to provide adequate aircraft handling capacity for the demand.

The interests of different airports might be balanced by technical and management measures; but if conflict does occur, we cannot be sure of the Central Government’s attitude. It might be supportive of Hong Kong today, but it is uncertain whether it will remain the same tomorrow. Unlike border checkpoints, which are managed solely by Customs, airspace is under the portfolio of the PRC State Council, where the military has a stake. The Central government welcomes Chinese cities to develop their own airport facilities according to their respective needs and advantages. The key question is, however, how is the Central government going to handle economic conflicts among cities? Overshadowed by distrust between China and Hong Kong, ‘domestic diplomacy’ might not be the once-and-for-all solution to the conflict. Why don’t we build a second airport to the south of Lamma Island? Far away from the delta, embracing the South China Sea, where our planes can fly freely. Being further away from the PRD estuary, there will be ample space for Hong Kong’s aircrafts to climb up gently before entering the prescribed altitudes within the mainland boundary. Overlapping airspace is definitely avoidable.

Fallacy #4: Airspace limitations will not affect the capacity of the 3RS

This argument is founded on unsound presuppositions about the aircraft handling capacity of a runway system is determined solely by the mode of operation, be it independent operation, semi-independent operation, take-off only, or landing only. It is oblivious of other possible situations, such as bad weather, engine failure, missed approaches, and more. More importantly, airspace limitations would make the 3RS prone to delays and cancellations under Chinese air traffic control. In that case, it would not be able to realise its full capacity.

“80% of respondents agreed that the plan for airport expansion should be finalised as soon as possible.”

Fallacy #5: Regrouping of air routes is impossible under current air services agreements

China-Hong Kong integration is the most logical result of geoeconomics. That said, co-opetition between Pearl River Delta region and Hong Kong might carry on regardless. It was proposed that the Shenzhen International Airport (SZIA) would open more domestic routes to second-, third- or even fourth-tier mainland cities, which actually makes a great deal of sense.

Currently, Cathay Pacific (wholly owning Dragonair) and the China Air are in a state of mutual shareholding. Having the SIA take over the direct flights to second- and third-tier mainland cities is certainly a viable option.

Unfortunately, the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Western Express Railway connecting HKIA-Hung Shui Kiu-Qianhai-SIA might be stalled due to high costs and low returns. However, planners should consider how we might enhance other modes of transport between HKIA and SIA by land and by sea.

Fallacy #6: Diverting passenger throughput whose destinations are second- and third-tier mainland cities to SZIA is meaningless since they only make up as little as 1.6% of HKIA’s total passenger throughput

This is true for the time being. But in the long-term, by enhancing the connecting transportation between HKIA and SZIA, the role of HKIA as a global air travel hub would be reinforced. For example, if one travels from Paris to a third-tier Chinese city like Jingdezhen, he might first arrive at HKIA, and then transfer to SZIA for Jingdezhen. More travellers would actually consider Hong Kong as the endpoint of their journey. Hong Kong would appear more appealing as a tourism destination. Moreover, under smaller traffic pressure, Hong Kong would be able to open new air routes to emerging markets and cities along ‘One Belt One Road’.

Fallacy #7: Dual airport systems generally fail

Some dual airport systems do fail, but that does not necessarily suggest that all dual airport systems are bound to fail. It depends on the site selection, connecting transport infrastructure to the central business district (CBD), and complementary services and facilities. Shanghai’s Hongqiao Airport and Pudong International Airport are relatively successful examples of dual airport systems.

Fallacy #8: The price for environmental conservation is economic development, which is a cost too high for our society.

The proposed site of the 3RS is also the habitat of Chinese white dolphins and a fishing area. In the process of building the 3RS, the government will have to maintain the dolphins’ habitat and compensate fisheries. These huge costs are not all included in the estimated costs of the 3RS. If there are other alternatives, such as building a second airport, the government would be free from these extra perpetual financial burdens.

Fallacy #9: The AAHK will be able to cover the costs of the 3RS on its own

The AAHK is in a healthy financial state right now, generating a cumulative profit of HK$35 billion for the government up to date. However, if it is to pay over HK$200 billion (probably due to inflation and cost overrun) for the 3RS , that might require the borrowing of HK$100 billion instead of the currently planned HK$50 billion, it would be a rather great impact on the AAHK’s finances. Following the high construction costs, the maintenance and service costs might undermine HKIA’s competitiveness as well. At the end, the deficit would have to be borne by the AAHK’s sole shareholder–the Hong Kong government.

Fallacy #10: Setting up monitoring committees in the LegCo and Airport Consultative Committee would be enough for holding the project accountable

This would only apply if the proposal pre-selected by the AAHK would eventually get through the statutory planning procedure, thus forcing Hongkongers to ‘pocket’ the 3RS for the time being. Once the white elephant project has taken off, there is little LegCo monitoring can do.

I must reiterate that I support the AAHK’s continual investment in expanding and enhancing the airport facilities, but that must come with operation- and cost-effectiveness, acceptable environmental impact, and planning sustainability. I call for the government to re-evaluate its plans to expand the airport, and compare different options rationally, scientifically, and objectively. There should be public discourse regarding the different aspects of the project, including the economics, the social impact, sustainability, and China-Hong Kong integration. The High Court’s decision on May 20 to approve two judicial reviews regarding the environmental impact assessment certainly has sound reasons.

Where there is danger, where there is opportunity and this is the crucial hour. It was predicted that the judicial reviews might take as long as four years, and that would offer sufficient time for redesign and re-planning. Once a consensus is reached, opposition voices would naturally disappear, and the project could be carried out more smoothly.

In response to Transport and Housing Bureau’s wishful thinking – “t is not ‘why and whether’, but ‘when and how’”. I believe plans for expanding the airport should return to the question of ‘what and where’.

Truth arises from discourse. Dichotomic language and hard-selling should come to an end. If the Three-Runway System still emerges to be the best option after completing technical assessments and having considered all other viable options, the government should provide adequate explanations and facts to convince the public.

Writ filed for review over third runway

June 16, 2015


A Tung Chung advocate yesterday applied for judicial review over the construction of the third airport runway.

Tung Chung Future’s community development officer, Wong Chun-yeung, 21, filed the writ to the High Court.

Wong said the Executive Council approval of the Airport Authority’s three- runway system in March is unconstitutional.

Departing passengers will be charged HK$180 from next year and airlines 15 percent more to help fund the third runway, whose budget has ballooned to HK$141.5 billion.

The third runway may be completed by 2023 if construction begins next year.

Green Sense founder Roy Tam Hoi- pong, who accompanied Wong in filing the writ, said afterwards that there were three grounds behind the judicial review.

The first was about the distinction between Hong Kong and mainland airspace, as the third runway would share airspace with Shenzhen and violate Article 130 of Basic Law, which states Hong Kong “shall be responsible on its own for matters of routine business and technical management of civil aviation.”

The second and third rationales concern contraventions of Article 64 of the Basic Law, which states that taxation and public expenditure should be approved by the Legislative Council.