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Numbers don’t add up in runway plan

Thomas Chu Ka Wa, writing on April 24, says that “we must recognise that the future demand on the airport is strong and can be met only with new hardware” (“No basis for opposing third runway”). He goes on to suggest that the arguments of the opponents do not stand up to scrutiny as “we can all analyse the data and information available”.

Mr Chu’s “strong demand” and “data available” springs from past figures and trends to project a hypothetical future. The same approach was adopted in 2004 in the Port 2020 study – a projection which showed that we needed an additional container terminal.

The reality is, of course, vastly different – our once great port has succumbed to external market realities which were even then apparent to anyone with a less partisan view – and it is indeed fortunate that sane heads prevailed in this rare case and we were not saddled with another costly white elephant infrastructure project.

Our airport business is particularly vulnerable. If the one-third that stems from transit passengers is replaced by direct flights through new air service agreements with mainland China – as is a distinct probability – then we lose this leg of the stool. If the one-third that derives from air cargo falls away upon the decline of manufacturing in the Pearl River Delta – as is already happening – then another leg becomes shaky.

And to assume that a city of but 7 million people will of itself fill the gaps thus lost in aircraft movements is extreme folly.

There is indeed a role in analysis of past trends, but it is unwise to adopt this without due rigour. The Port 2020 study demonstrated how a failure to examine the wider picture could have led us into a very costly blunder indeed.

I have read the detailed official analysis and justification for the third runway, and it is this case made that does not stand up to the scrutiny that Mr Chu suggests we all take.

Clive Noffke, Lantau

Source URL (modified on Apr 29th 2015, 5:07pm):

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