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Uncomfortable questions about that runway plan


Howard Winn
May 12, 2012

Uncomfortable questions about that runway plan

A group calling itself the Airport Development Concern Network has written to incoming chief executive Leung Chun-ying expressing its disappointment at the reluctance of the Airport Authority to carry out a social return on investment (SROI) study on the proposed third runway, as requested by the Legislative Council environmental panel. The group also called on Leung not to renew the contract of authority chief executive Stanley Hui Hon-chung when it ends next February. The group says in its letter that during the chief executive candidates’ environmental policy forum before the recent election, Leung was in favour of such a study. The group also suggested that the authority’s chief executive should have some experience in “planning large-scale infrastructure and sustainable development”. There has been some attempt by advocates of the third runway to speed up the approval process by Legco. The proposed runway will be one of Hong Kong’s largest infrastructure projects, at an estimated cost of HK$136 billion, and the authority claims it will bring some HK$900 billion in economic benefit in the 50 years after it is built.

Interestingly, Eva Cheng, the secretary for transport and housing, has said the environmental impact study would be based on new air quality standards that came into force in Hong Kong in 2014. The authority’s own consultants, Ove Arup, have already admitted that the third runway would struggle to meet these new standards, which are a legal requirement. The consultants’ report says “emissions from aircraft can only meet the standard by reducing the capacity of the new runway by some 60 per cent”. The prospect of carrying out an SROI study must be even more daunting.

The present administration’s approach would be to try to fudge this issue, so it will be interesting to see how the new government handles it.

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