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Third Runway

Hong Kong activists lose legal bid to challenge HK$141.5 billion third airport runway project

Court sets aside concerns over business model and sharing airspace with mainland China

Two activists and a university student challenging the controversial proposed HK$141.5 billion third airport runway at Hong Kong International Airport failed to meet the minimum requirements to mount their legal bids.

The Court of First Instance on Tuesday refused to grant permission for City University student Hui Sin-hang, League of Social Democrats vice-chairman Raphael Wong Ho-ming and social activist Koo Sze-yiu to lodge a judicial review against the Hong Kong Airport Authority [1] and the Chief Executive in Council over the planned new runway on Lantau Island.

The trio attacked the infrastructure project on various grounds, including its business model and the legality of Hong Kong’s sharing airspace with mainland China once the new runway is completed.

The applicants had to demonstrate their contentions were “reasonably arguable” before being allowed to proceed to the actual hearing. However, the court on Tuesday ruled they did not do so.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Anderson Chow Ka-ming wrote that he refused the argument put forth by Hui’s barrister Hectar Pun Hei SC, who argued that an additional fee ranging from HK$90 to HK$180 and to be levied on passengers by the authority would be unlawful.

Pun earlier argued the airport construction fee would violate “the no levy without authority” principle, stating that the government had no power to impose a fee unless conferred by law.

But Chow, citing the Airport Authority Ordinance [3], wrote that the legislature had “expressly empowered” the authority to charge the airport construction fee

Pun earlier maintained that the third runway would result in Hong Kong sharing airspace with mainland China – amounting to a violation of the Basic Law – because the city should be responsible for its own aviation management.

But the judge said that, after the shared arrangement, the Civil Aviation Administration of China [4] would only be responsible for a small portion of the city’s airspace.

At the hearing, Wong, representing himself, argued that the authority had to adhere to a commercial principle ensuring that its revenue could meet its expenditure according to the ordinance. Chow countered, however, the principle could be read loosely as the third runway was a one-off project.

Wong also argued it was unlawful for the government to relieve the authority from having to pay dividends for 10 years in support of the runway. But Chow ruled it was up to the authority to grant the dividends and not an order by the government.

Chow also rejected claims advanced by Koo, who was absent from the hearing, ruling they were similar to Wong’s.
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Shenzhen and Macau flight paths could clash if Hong Kong gets third runway, study finds

Roy Tam Hoi-pong of Green Sense points out the findings of the joint airspace study. Photo: Nora Tam

Roy Tam Hoi-pong of Green Sense points out the findings of the joint airspace study. Photo: Nora Tam

Ernest Kao

Environmental group Green Sense also says split management of airspace would breach principle of ‘one country, two systems’

Nearly 43 per cent of flights landing at Shenzhen airport and over 90 per cent of departures from Macau could be affected by regional air space issues caused by Hong Kong’s planned third runway system, a study has found.

Using data from FlightAware and Flightradar24, environmental group Green Sense and the Airport Development Concern Network looked at more than 16,000 flight movements out of a total of 24,000 arriving and departing from Shenzhen’s Bao An Airport in January.

They also looked at 1,628 departures from Macau, which comprised about half of its total flight movements.

At least 5,200 arrivals and 304 departures to and from Shenzhen were at risk of crossing paths with three Hong Kong flight paths.

These included a northwest departure route from the airport’s current north runway and two paths that will be used by flights engaging in “missed approaches”, aborted landings that require circling into mainland airspace and re-entering Hong Kong.

In the case of Macau, nearly all of the analysed flights departing from its airport would potentially clash with departures from Hong Kong’s north runway.

Green Sense chief executive Roy Tam Hoi-pong, believed unresolved problems would lead to Hong Kong having to give up some airspace to the mainland, leading to a breach of the “one country, two systems” principle and a repeat of the co-location controversy over the high-speed rail link to Guangzhou.

Questions of constitutionality were raised when it was revealed mainland immigration officers would be allowed to operate at the link’s West Kowloon terminus.

In a Town Planning Board meeting this year, the Civil Aviation Department suggested the airspace could divided into two, with Hong Kong managing the lower portion into the mainland and the mainland managing the upper part. But Tam said this would breach Article 130 of the Basic Law.

“If we still believe in the ‘one country, two systems’ principle, then Hong Kong must manage its own airspace,” he said, demanding the project be shelved.

Article 130 stipulates that the territory should be responsible on its own for matters of routine business and technical management of civil aviation.

Michael Mo, of the concern network, said the difference in mainland and Hong Kong aviation standards and measurements could also pose many issues of flight safety.

A Civil Aviation Department spokesman said an air traffic management plan would be implemented in the region with “unified” planning and standards as the ultimate goal. The plan would comply with the Basic Law and international civil aviation rules, he added.

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Accusation flies about runway views

The Town Planning Board is being accused of violating its own rules by not properly informing interested parties about dates when the pros and cons concerning the construction of a third runway at Hong Kong International Airport will be heard.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Town Planning Board is being accused of violating its own rules by not properly informing interested parties about dates when the pros and cons concerning the construction of a third runway at Hong Kong International Airport will be heard.

Green Sense chief executive Roy Tam Hoi-pong said 99 percent of the 12,000 submissions received by the board were against the construction, but only 200 representatives were at a hearing yesterday because of how the board handled invitations.

Tam said the board had sent e-mails to interested parties asking if they were available this month without giving any dates. So only 200 replied and were informed of yesterday’s meeting.

“Not only is the Town Planning Board acting as a rubber-stamp authority,” Tam said. “It now seems to have adopted administrative hegemony.” That led to him writing to the board yesterday, asking it to think again on opportunities for people to present their views. A failure to do so could lead to action such as seeking a judicial review.

But board chairman Michael Wong said a legal consultant had cleared the arrangement, though some people were unhappy about meetings on weekdays as they could not take time off work.

Wong said others had demanded improvements in the way meetings were held as “they might have to wait for a whole day before they could speak.”

Also yesterday, Civic Party members against the HK$140 billion runway protested outside the meeting venue, the board’s North Point offices.

Legislator Kwok Ka-ki said it was wrong to push on with plans when problems such as air-traffic control and financing were unresolved.

The board has amended the Chek Lap Kok outline zoning plan and defined parts of a reclamation as an “airport service area.” The board is now carrying out public consultation on the plan with four hearings this month and in January. JANE CHEUNG

Bid to delay third runway voted down

A motion, urging the government to delay construction of the third runway, was defeated by 13 pro-establishment legislators.

Civic Party lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki moved the motion yesterday in the Three-Runway System Advisory Committee, citing as reasons labor shortages and insufficient raw materials.

But after a two-hour debate at the Legislative Council, only five pan- democrats, including Kwok, supported the motion.

He expressed fears about cost overruns, citing the funding woes of the Hong Kong-Shenzhen-Guangzhou Express Rail Link, while technical problems, such as a so-called “sky wall,” remain unresolved.

“We don’t have enough manpower and raw materials. We don’t have any agreement [with the mainland] to resolve the sky wall. This is why we are in a hurry to sign contracts. We all know that once the airport signs the contracts, there’s no way back,” Kwok said.

People Power’s Albert Chan Wai-yip urged the government to first submit all related reports because without them, lawmakers cannot make a well-informed decision.

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force requires aircraft leaving Hong Kong to reach an altitude of more than 15,700 feet before they enter mainland airspace. This altitude restriction is commonly known as the sky wall.

However, pro-Beijing lawmakers said the project should not be delayed any further.

Tourism legislator Yiu Si-wing and transport legislator Frankie Yick Chi- ming said the third runway will benefit the tourism, logistics and trading sectors.

Airport Authority chief executive officer Fred Lam Tin-fuk said sea sand will be bought from China and imported labor considered for the project, which has seen its budget increase to HK$141.5 billion from HK$84.5 billion.

MPs advise against Heathrow expansion until conditions met

The British government should not give final approval to the expansion of London’s Heathrow [FGPTOW.UL] airport until it shows it accepts and will comply with environmental conditions, a parliamentary committee said in a report.

Members of parliament on the Environmental Audit Committee said Heathrow must show it can reconcile expansion with a commitment to introduce a ban on night flights, a legal commitment on air quality and demonstrate that an expanded Heathrow would be less noisy than a two-runway Heathrow.

“The communities living near to the roads around Heathrow already put up with noise and extra traffic, it would be quite unacceptable to subject them to a potentially significant deterioration in air quality as well,” committee chairman Huw Irranca-Davies said in a statement.

A government-appointed Airports Commission named Heathrow as the preferred site for London airport expansion in July, and Prime Minister David Cameron has said he will decide by the end of the year whether a new 23 billion-pound ($35 billion) runway should be built there.

Heathrow said the committee was right to look at the environmental impact of expansion but said its plan would make Heathrow quieter and served by improved public transport links which would help improve air quality.

The airport has been campaigning for years to be allowed to add a third runway because it is operating at full capacity but it faces opposition from some prominent politicians, local residents in west London and environmental groups.

Activists opposed to the expansion of Heathrow blocked an approach tunnel last week, bringing traffic chaos to Europe’s busiest airport.

The final decision on expansion poses problems for Cameron who pledged to voters before an election in 2010 that he would not allow a third runway, “no ifs, no buts”. His party’s candidate for next May’s London Mayoral election is also opposed to expansion of Heathrow.

Gatwick airport, Heathrow’s rival to the south of the capital, said the parliamentary committee’s report brought into question the basis for the Airport Commission’s recommendation.

“The Committee questions the entire legal basis of the Airports Commission report on air quality and highlights the many other environmental hurdles facing Heathrow expansion,” said Gatwick’s Chief Executive Stewart Wingate.

“It is increasingly clear only expansion at Gatwick is legal and can actually happen.”

Heathrow’s largest shareholder is Spanish infrastructure firm Ferrovial (FER.MC). Other partners include Qatar Holding, China Investment Corp and the Government of Singapore Investment Corp.

(Reporting By Aurindom Mukherjee in Bengaluru and Michael Holden in London; Editing by Stephen Addison)

Heathrow Airport expansion: Environmental conditions ‘must be met’

The government should not support the building of a third runway at Heathrow until a number of environmental conditions can be met, MPs have said.

The Airports Commission published a report backing a third runway in July.

But the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee report said firm plans to deal with climate-changing emissions, air quality and noise need to be put in place.

A final government decision is expected by the end of the year.

Labour MP Huw Irranca-Davies, chairman of the committee, said it would be “irresponsible” to postpone dealing with the environmental impact of expansion at Heathrow.

He warned that to do so “could lead to legal challenges as a result of the potential damage to public health from increased air pollution and noise”.

“If the government decides to accept the commission’s recommendation for a third runway in principle, we will seek assurances from the secretary of state for transport that environmental conditions will be met before it is given final approval,” he added.

BBC business editor Kamal Ahmed said senior sources at the company that runs Heathrow have told him the “mood music” around the decision to expand is in favour of the third runway being approved.

The cross-party committee said legal air pollution limits would have to be reached if the west London airport expands and also called for a ban on night flights to ease noise.

The MPs said the airport had to show that an expanded Heathrow would be less noisy than it is with two runways. Their report also called for Heathrow to say it would cover the costs of surface transport improvements.

The Airports Commission has already called for flights between 23:30 and 06:00 to be banned.

Heathrow currently has said it wants a “review” of the issue and has not made any pledges over night flights. The airport has also said it plans to ensure more people arrive by public transport to keep emissions down.

‘Policy vacuum’

Mr Irranca-Davies said: “The communities living near to the roads around Heathrow already put up with noise and extra traffic.

“It would be quite unacceptable to subject them to a potentially significant deterioration in air quality as well.”

A strategy to deliver aviation emissions at no higher than 2005 levels by 2050 should be put in place by the government, the committee’s report recommended.

It also called for a Community Engagement Board to be set up to increase trust between local residents and the government.

Mr Irranca-Davies said: “Planes are becoming more fuel efficient, but this alone will not keep aviation emissions in line with the government’s climate change targets given the growth in passenger numbers.

“Even without expansion, aviation is on track to exceed its climate change target. We heard evidence that those targets might be met in theory, but at present there is a policy vacuum and evidence-based scepticism as to whether they can be met in practice.”

Heathrow’s chief executive John Holland-Kaye told the committee earlier this month that the airport could comfortably expand to include a third runway and still stay within environmental targets.

At the time, he said the issue of night flights was one that Heathrow was looking at and would comment on “in due course”.

The issue of Heathrow’s expansion has been a long-running and contentious issue.

In 2009, while in opposition, David Cameron ruled out Heathrow expansion, saying “no ifs, no buts”.

The Airport Commission’s recommendation in July was criticised by competing airport Gatwick, and by London Mayor Boris Johnson, who has argued for a whole new airport.

Environmentalists and residents who live near the flight path of the proposed third runway have also campaigned against it.

Plea to ground the third runway plan

The Civic Party is urging the Airport Authority to delay construction of the third runway because of a labor shortage and insufficient raw materials that have beset major projects such as the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge.

The Civic Party is urging the Airport Authority to delay construction of the third runway because of a labor shortage and insufficient raw materials that have beset major projects such as the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge.
Legislator Kwok Ka-ki said the construction of the third runway might go over the budget as has the bridge project and the Liantang Boundary Control Point, which have cited both reasons for the delay.

The authority estimates that the runway will cost HK$141.5 billion.

On that, Kwok said: “With reference to other overbudget infrastructure projects, we estimate the cost of the third runway will increase by 20 percent, or an additional HK$28 billion.”

Since the authority is not expected to sign the deal with contractors until next year, he said, there is time for government officials to reconsider the schedule and to suspend it for now.

Kwok also said there are many other problems that have not been resolved including the so-called “sky wall” a requirement by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force for aircraft departing from Hong Kong to be at an altitude of more than 15,700 feet before entering mainland airspace.

“Why did the government give the green light to building the third runway when it knows the cost has been increasing?” Kwok said.

Hung Wing-tat, an associate professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said that in 2009 the government estimated there would be 40,000 vehicles using the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, but the number is likely to be less due to economic slowdown.

Last week, the Highways Department revealed that completion of the bridge has been put back a year until the end of 2017.

Hung also said the government should have estimated the possible labor shortage and a lack of materials during the project planning stages and it should not now be used as the main excuse for a delay in the construction.

He also criticized officials for a delay in implementing the boundary crossing agreement.

Kwok said he will question the Three- Runway System Advisory Committee in the Legislative Council tomorrow.

In a statement on Saturday, Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung Bing- leung said the Joint Works Committee of the Three Governments will be making a final call on completing the bridge and its opening.

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.