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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):

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