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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

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