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March 20th, 2015:

Third Hong Kong airport runway to come with smaller facilities

Parking space and floor area are almost halved in latest design, but bosses insists expansion can still serve 30 million more travellers a year

More questions are being raised over the Airport Authority’s HK$141.5 billion third runway – this time over the design, in which the number of aircraft parking slots and the floor area of a new concourse are slashed by almost half.

The revisions raise doubts about whether the expanded Chek Lap Kok airport can still serve 30 million more passengers a year, a projection made based on the old design.

According to the authority’s announcement on Tuesday, the concourse will now be “Y-shaped”, covering about 283,000 square metres and providing 57 plane parking spaces.

That contrasted with the original design, with two connected “Y”s yielding a floor area of 470,000 square metres and 106 parking spaces.

The authority did not point out during the announcement that the design had changed, although it did present pictures of the latest plans.

“We can still meet the target under this design,” a spokesman for the authority said yesterday.

The space where the other half of the concourse was to have been built would be “reserved for future purposes”, he added.

The Executive Council has approved the third runway and construction may start as early as next year despite unresolved issues about sharing airspace with the mainland and a looming judicial review over the project’s environmental impact.

Apart from these questions, the authority is set to skirt Legislative Council scrutiny by “self-financing” the work, so lawmakers do not have to approve its multibillion-dollar budget.

Gary Fan Kwok-wai, who sits on Legco’s transport panel, cast doubts on the projected airport capacity, now that the design was different. “The Airport Authority could be trying to make the costs appear lower first, to reduce the level of controversy,” he said. “The authority needs to offer a clear explanation.”

Green Sense president Roy Tam Hoi-pong said that if the airport’s extra handling capacity turned out to be lower than 30 million travellers, the authority might need – given its plan to offset the costs partly by charging carriers and passengers – more than HK$141.5 billion to complete the works.

Each outbound traveller is to fork out an “airport construction fee” of about HK$180, while landing fees for airlines will return to their pre-2000 levels, reversing a 15 per cent cut in place since 2000. Financing will also come from the authority’s surpluses and external financing via bank loans and bonds.

Separately, a concern group found in a study that many travellers at Chek Lap Kok were only in transit, so they would not go into the city and help the economy.

Michael Mo, president of the Airport Development Concern Network, cited the International Air Transport Association as saying in a 2011 report that 45.85 per cent of passengers at Chek Lap Kok were in transit.

That figure was expected to rise slightly to 46.05 per cent by 2023 and 46.76 per cent in 2030 under a three-runway system.

Mo said transit passengers would not boost the economy.

Tam shared his concerns, saying: “Society needs to think about whether it is worth spending more than HK$140 billion for so many transit passengers.”

The authority said transit travellers made up about a third of total travellers at present, and that there should not be big changes in this ratio in the future.

Source URL (modified on Mar 20th 2015, 12:31am):

Resolving airspace issues key to success of Hong Kong’s third runway

Authorities have cleared the air about whether Hong Kong International Airport will have a third runway, the Executive Council having given it the green light and details of how it will be financed released. The HK$141.5 billion project is a necessity for development, ensuring that predicted increased numbers of travellers and volume of cargo will be able to effortlessly move in and out of our city. While a court challenge by environmentalists could cause a delay and funding from loans and bonds has to be secured, work can now begin in earnest on turning plans into reality. One major matter remains unresolved, though: the use of mainland airspace.

More than a decade of talks by a working group of aviation officials from Hong Kong, Guangdong, Shenzhen and Macau have failed to resolve airspace problems. Congestion is a long-standing issue in southern China’s skies, in part due to demand, but also because of People’s Liberation Army control and restrictions. Even if there are no military exercises along a flight path, planes from Hong Kong entering mainland airspace have to first circle to 4,300 metres. The consequences, beyond increased flight times, delays and bigger fuel costs for airlines, is an inability to maximise runway usage.

That raises doubts about whether the new runway can be fully utilised; Guangzhou’s recently opened third one has added just 10 flights a day. The planned airstrip will lift the limit at Chek Lap Kok from 68 flights an hour to an anticipated 102, but that will depend on resolution of outstanding problems. Authorities are confident issues will be resolved within five years, although they have not given reasons for their optimism.

If construction work on the runway and associated facilities begins next year, the runway will be ready for use in 2023. Hong Kong cannot afford significant delays; the airport’s two runways are already handling 66 flights an hour during peak periods, leaving little space for extra capacity. Airport Authority projections foresee that by 2030, our city will be receiving almost 30 per cent more passengers a year to 90 million and at least a doubling of cargo to nine million tonnes. Opportunities and revenue will be lost if time is needlessly wasted.

Working closely with aviation authorities in the Pearl River Delta region has to be a priority. Talks on joint airspace planning, use of common standards and design of flight procedures have to stay on track. Without agreements, Hong Kong’s third runway risks becoming a white elephant project.

Source URL (modified on Mar 20th 2015, 1:05am):

Third runway figures have activists worried

Is it worth building a HK$141.5 billion runway when about 47 percent of passengers will not “stay and shop” in the SAR?

That is the worry expressed by the Airport Development Concern Network and environmental group Green Sense in questioning the costs and benefits of the Airport Authority’s third runway project, which was given the go- ahead this week.

Network spokesman Michael Mo Kwan-tai said 46.7 percent of some 73 million non-Hong Kong passengers or some 34.1 million will only be transiting in 2030.

He based this on the Hong Kong Airport Authority’s 2030 primary traffic forecast report published by the International Air Transport Association in 2011.

This year, the report estimates, non-Hong Kong transiting passengers will be about 19.5 million, or 45.8 percent of 42.5 million travelers.

Green Sense chief executive Roy Tam Hoi-pong said transiting passengers will not stay and shop.

“The authority is always saying that [the airport] will be saturated, but the reason is not because of locals, but because demand by mainlanders traveling overseas has risen,” Tam said.

“The authority increased the flights for them, but it was a `saturation’ trap.”

He called on Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung Bing-leung to disclose details of a 2007 deal Hong Kong signed with Beijing and Macau for coordinating the air space.

Mo also said transit passengers will only be paying the HK$180 airport construction fee and not the HK$120 departure tax.

Hongkongers have to pay both the fees from next year every time they use the airport.

Neo Democrat lawmaker Gary Fan Kwok-wai of the said he will propose a special subcommittee be set up in the House Committee today so that authority officials can explain the project.

An airport spokeswoman said the three-runway system could bring an extra HK$450 billion in economic gains stemming from cost-effectiveness. KENNETH LAU

Hong Kong’s third-world water management system in urgent need of repair

Asit K. Biswas says Hong Kong’s poor management of its water resources, from the waste in usage to its inept policy decisions, does not befit a city of its wealth and development

Over the past several decades, Hong Kong’s water supply and wastewater management practices have been on an unsustainable path. Poor planning, absence of sustained interest from its top policymakers, an uninformed public, lack of regular media scrutiny and a series of poor policy interventions have ensured that, today, it lags behind nearly all cities of similar levels of economic development in its management of water.

Hong Kong is a net water importer. Currently, 70-80 per cent is imported from Guangdong’s Dongjiang through multiple agreements. The Audit Commission reported in 1999 that the planners had so badly overestimated city water requirements in the 1989 agreement that some 716 million cubic metres of water literally went down the drain, which cost taxpayers, between 1994 and 1998, HK$1.7 billion.

Even after this sad performance, the next agreement was even worse. The requirement was again another overestimate. Consequently, between 2006 and 2012, the city had to pay for seven years of water imports but in reality used only about six years of water. This over-estimation cost the taxpayers another HK$2.8 billion.

As an adviser to 19 governments, I am not aware of a single city anywhere in the world which has consistently overestimated water requirements so badly for over two decades.

Not only has overestimation been a serious problem, but also no serious policy measures were taken to manage domestic and industrial water demands. At present, average water use in Hong Kong is about 220 litres per capita per day, a figure that is higher than in 2003. This is bad management since in nearly all similar cities of the world, the usage trends are generally declining because of better management practices and increasing awareness of the people that water is a scarce resource.

Accordingly, inhabitants of cities like Hamburg and Barcelona use about half that of an average Hongkonger. In Singapore, per capita water use has steadily come down in recent decades. It is now 152 litres per capita per day, which is still on the high side. An average Hongkonger uses 45 per cent more.

One of the reasons for this very high usage is because water and wastewater provisioning has been subsidised at higher levels with each passing year. The water tariff has remained the same since 1995, but costs of services have gone up steadily. This has resulted in some ridiculous situations, like the city providing private bottled water companies with highly subsidised water, which at the retail level is being sold at over 1,000 times the cost of city water.

The present pricing structure means that a round 14 per cent of Hong Kong residents do not pay for water and sewerage services. Each household now receives completely free 12 cubic metres of water every four months irrespective of their ability to pay. This is in contrast to Singapore, where its national water agency, PUB, not only completely recovers its costs but also makes a profit.

Furthermore, in Hong Kong, there have been no consistent attempts to educate the citizens on the importance of water as a strategic resource. This is again in sharp contrast to Singapore, where the population is regularly made aware of the value of water. The interactive permanent exhibitions of wastewater treatment and water management at its NEWater Visitor Centre and Marina Barrage have become major tourist destinations.

When compared to other Asian cities of similar levels of per capita gross domestic product, like Singapore, Tokyo or Osaka, urban water management in Hong Kong comes out very poorly. But even when compared to some cities in developing countries, like Cambodia’s Phnom Penh, Hong Kong does not fare well.

For the past 15 years, the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority has outclassed Hong Kong. Like in Hong Kong, Phnom Penh residents receive clean water which can be drunk straight from the tap.

Both the poor and the rich pay for water at affordable prices, and no one receives free water, as in Hong Kong.

Phnom Penh’s water authority, a public-sector autonomous corporation, has been consistently profitable for over a decade and receives no subsidy. All its performance indicators have been consistently better than Hong Kong’s, with many of them better than in London or Los Angeles. Its planning and execution have also surpassed Hong Kong’s. For example, Phnom Penh’s bill collection ratio is almost 100 per cent, and unaccounted-for losses from the water system are about 6.5 per cent, compared to about 17 per cent in Hong Kong.

The question the Hong Kong public and policymakers need to ask and answer is: how did a third world city like Phnom Penh, which has limited technical and administrative capacities, no private sector to speak of, inadequate educational and management facilities and poor governance practices, manage to leapfrog a world-class city like Hong Kong so thoroughly in little over a decade?

Urban water management is not rocket science. There is no reason why any city of more than 200,000 people cannot have a good water system. It is high time for Hong Kong to do some serious soul-searching and find solutions which can radically improve its present urban water system.

Asit K. Biswas is the Distinguished Visiting Professor at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. An adviser to 19 countries, he received the Stockholm Water Prize, equivalent to a Nobel Prize in the area of water, in 2006
Source URL (modified on Mar 20th 2015, 4:29pm):