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Third runway raises fears of mainland say on airspace

It would be necessary for Hong Kong to allow mainland authorities to administer its airspace if the airport’s third runway is to be built, an aviation official told lawmakers.

Members of the Legislative Council’s subcommittee on the third runway yesterday expressed fears that issues arising from a new runway would be a repeat of the Express Rail Link co- location immigration arrangement, as the transport chief refuses to make public arrangements on airspace.

When the third runway is built, the number of flights per hour would increase to 102, and it would be inevitable for Hong Kong to let mainland authorities administer some of its airspace, said Samuel Ng, senior evaluation officer of the Civil Aviation Department.

The arrangement is in line with the Basic Law and international standards, Ng said.

Lawmaker Kenneth Chan Ka-lok said Hong Kong people may not feel comfortable with letting mainland authorities administer their airspace.

Legislator Lee Cheuk- yan said the biggest problem is that lawmakers have no idea about what agreement the SAR government reached with its mainland counterparts.

“I can smell the scent of the Express Rail Link,” Lee said.

Ng said the airport has once reached its highest capacity of 68 flights per hour last winter, the main constraint is the safety distance between aircraft required by the International Civil Aviation Organization.

Ng said delegation of airspace conforms with regulations of the ICAO, and is a common international practice, giving Singapore and Malaysia as an example. The arrangement conforms with the Basic Law and will not involve the allocation of civil aviation airspace from the SAR to other jurisdictions.

Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said the plan on air-traffic management by civil aviation authorities of Hong Kong, the mainland and Macau took the third runway into consideration.

“The plan involves many technical details of other authorities. We cannot reveal those by ourselves,” Cheung said.

Criticism of Hong Kong’s proposed third runway should be based on facts

Raymond Li says there are many mistaken ideas among the public about a three-runway system at the airport, and they need clarification

In February this year, the Town Planning Board completed its review of the draft outline zoning plan supporting a three-runway system at Hong Kong International Airport and agreed to submit it to the Chief Executive in Council for approval. This will pave the way for the implementation of the three-runway system which is essential to meet our long-term air traffic demand.

Many opinions were heard during the board review meetings, some of which were misconceptions that have unfortunately persisted despite attempts at clarification. The Civil Aviation Department would like to address some of these.

Fact 1: To meet safety requirements, the maximum capacity of Hong Kong’s existing two runways is 68 flight movements per hour.

Some commentators suggest that the maximum capacity could reach 86 movements per hour if airspace were better managed. This appears to be based on misinterpretation of the 1992 New Airport Master Plan.

The master plan presumed that if the two runways were able to support an “independent mixed mode” – that is, two runways were used for both take-offs and landings at the same time, as if they were two independent airports – the maximum capacity of the two runways could reach 86 movements per hour. Nonetheless, the same report clearly stated that, fettered by the surrounding terrain of Lantau Island, it is impractical for the two runways at the airport to adopt this mode of operation due to incompliance with the safety requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, particularly in relation to the safe distance to be maintained between aircraft during take-off and landing. In other words, the capacity of the existing two runways is constrained, and it is impossible for the two runways to reach 86 movements per hour. Subsequent international consultancy studies reaffirmed this.

Let me draw a comparison with a train station. If there are only two platforms at the station and the trains have to operate at a fixed time interval at each platform, the maximum number of trains that this station can operate is constrained. Without a new platform, the number of trains to be operated by this station will never go beyond the limit, even if more tracks are built to connect this station with other stations. The same applies to the two runways at the airport. Only by building an additional runway can we greatly enhance the number of aircraft movements.

Fact 2: Removing some hilltops on Lantau Island will not enhance runway capacity.

There were views that capacity of the runways could be boosted if the peaks of two small hills on Lantau could be removed. This misconception again probably stemmed from the 1992 master plan. While the report mentioned removing the peaks of two hills, which were 610 and 810 feet high, the suggestion was made in connection with possible options of lowering the climb-out gradients for departure aircraft in case of engine failure. This has nothing to do with runway capacity.

Claims that flight tracks will be in conflict are unfounded

If we were to alter the surrounding terrain for the sake of increasing the capacity of the runways, most of the high peaks on Lantau Island would have to be levelled to satisfy the relevant safety requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organisation. This would mean forgoing the Ngong Ping cable car, Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery and a part of the Lantau country parks, which does not appear acceptable to the public.

Fact 3: Claims that flight tracks between Hong Kong and Shenzhen will be in conflict are unfounded.

As early as 2004, the mainland, Hong Kong and Macau set up a tripartite working group to formulate measures to rationalise airspace structure and air traffic management arrangements in the Pearl River Delta region to optimise the use of airspace and enhance safety.

The three sides jointly established a plan in 2007, which took into account the operational needs of a three-runway system in Hong Kong as well as the development needs of Shenzhen and other major airports in the region. Progressive implementation of the plan will not lead to any conflict between the flight tracks of the three-runway system and that of Shenzhen airport (or any other airports in the Pearl River Delta).

I have seen a graphic depicting the existing flight tracks of Shenzhen airport together with the flight tracks of the future three-runway system, suggesting that the flight tracks are overlapping and unsafe. We treat this kind of misleading accusation very seriously as there is absolutely no question of the government compromising aviation safety in any manner.

There is absolutely no question of the government compromising aviation safety

Fact 4: Shared use of airspace complies with the Basic Law.

Some people have alleged that the shared use of airspace between Hong Kong and Shenzhen may violate the Basic Law. This is absolutely groundless. As a matter of fact, the International Civil Aviation Organisation has been advocating that air route structure and air traffic management efficiency, instead of national boundaries, should be the prime considerations in planning airspace. Such airspace management is a common international practice, for instance between Singapore and Malaysia, and between Germany and Switzerland.

The High Court earlier rejected an application for a judicial review in relation to the three-runway system [4]. The complaint that the implementation of shared use of airspace under the plan would breach the Basic Law was considered not reasonably arguable. The court also considered that even though the Civil Aviation Department would permit the mainland authority to utilise a small portion of Hong Kong airspace to facilitate air traffic control, and vice versa, the ownership of the concerned airspace would still belong to the original civil aviation authority.

The State Council issued a guideline on March 15 on promoting co-operation within the Pearl River Delta region which clearly stated that the central government supports the development of a third runway in at the Hong Kong airport, to reinforce the city’s position as an international aviation hub. I hope that this article can help dispel misconceptions.

Raymond Li is asistant director general of civil aviation (air traffic management)

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Hong Kong activists lose legal bid to challenge HK$141.5 billion third airport runway project

Court sets aside concerns over business model and sharing airspace with mainland China

Two activists and a university student challenging the controversial proposed HK$141.5 billion third airport runway at Hong Kong International Airport failed to meet the minimum requirements to mount their legal bids.

The Court of First Instance on Tuesday refused to grant permission for City University student Hui Sin-hang, League of Social Democrats vice-chairman Raphael Wong Ho-ming and social activist Koo Sze-yiu to lodge a judicial review against the Hong Kong Airport Authority [1] and the Chief Executive in Council over the planned new runway on Lantau Island.

The trio attacked the infrastructure project on various grounds, including its business model and the legality of Hong Kong’s sharing airspace with mainland China once the new runway is completed.

The applicants had to demonstrate their contentions were “reasonably arguable” before being allowed to proceed to the actual hearing. However, the court on Tuesday ruled they did not do so.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Anderson Chow Ka-ming wrote that he refused the argument put forth by Hui’s barrister Hectar Pun Hei SC, who argued that an additional fee ranging from HK$90 to HK$180 and to be levied on passengers by the authority would be unlawful.

Pun earlier argued the airport construction fee would violate “the no levy without authority” principle, stating that the government had no power to impose a fee unless conferred by law.

But Chow, citing the Airport Authority Ordinance [3], wrote that the legislature had “expressly empowered” the authority to charge the airport construction fee

Pun earlier maintained that the third runway would result in Hong Kong sharing airspace with mainland China – amounting to a violation of the Basic Law – because the city should be responsible for its own aviation management.

But the judge said that, after the shared arrangement, the Civil Aviation Administration of China [4] would only be responsible for a small portion of the city’s airspace.

At the hearing, Wong, representing himself, argued that the authority had to adhere to a commercial principle ensuring that its revenue could meet its expenditure according to the ordinance. Chow countered, however, the principle could be read loosely as the third runway was a one-off project.

Wong also argued it was unlawful for the government to relieve the authority from having to pay dividends for 10 years in support of the runway. But Chow ruled it was up to the authority to grant the dividends and not an order by the government.

Chow also rejected claims advanced by Koo, who was absent from the hearing, ruling they were similar to Wong’s.
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Shenzhen and Macau flight paths could clash if Hong Kong gets third runway, study finds

Roy Tam Hoi-pong of Green Sense points out the findings of the joint airspace study. Photo: Nora Tam

Roy Tam Hoi-pong of Green Sense points out the findings of the joint airspace study. Photo: Nora Tam

Ernest Kao

Environmental group Green Sense also says split management of airspace would breach principle of ‘one country, two systems’

Nearly 43 per cent of flights landing at Shenzhen airport and over 90 per cent of departures from Macau could be affected by regional air space issues caused by Hong Kong’s planned third runway system, a study has found.

Using data from FlightAware and Flightradar24, environmental group Green Sense and the Airport Development Concern Network looked at more than 16,000 flight movements out of a total of 24,000 arriving and departing from Shenzhen’s Bao An Airport in January.

They also looked at 1,628 departures from Macau, which comprised about half of its total flight movements.

At least 5,200 arrivals and 304 departures to and from Shenzhen were at risk of crossing paths with three Hong Kong flight paths.

These included a northwest departure route from the airport’s current north runway and two paths that will be used by flights engaging in “missed approaches”, aborted landings that require circling into mainland airspace and re-entering Hong Kong.

In the case of Macau, nearly all of the analysed flights departing from its airport would potentially clash with departures from Hong Kong’s north runway.

Green Sense chief executive Roy Tam Hoi-pong, believed unresolved problems would lead to Hong Kong having to give up some airspace to the mainland, leading to a breach of the “one country, two systems” principle and a repeat of the co-location controversy over the high-speed rail link to Guangzhou.

Questions of constitutionality were raised when it was revealed mainland immigration officers would be allowed to operate at the link’s West Kowloon terminus.

In a Town Planning Board meeting this year, the Civil Aviation Department suggested the airspace could divided into two, with Hong Kong managing the lower portion into the mainland and the mainland managing the upper part. But Tam said this would breach Article 130 of the Basic Law.

“If we still believe in the ‘one country, two systems’ principle, then Hong Kong must manage its own airspace,” he said, demanding the project be shelved.

Article 130 stipulates that the territory should be responsible on its own for matters of routine business and technical management of civil aviation.

Michael Mo, of the concern network, said the difference in mainland and Hong Kong aviation standards and measurements could also pose many issues of flight safety.

A Civil Aviation Department spokesman said an air traffic management plan would be implemented in the region with “unified” planning and standards as the ultimate goal. The plan would comply with the Basic Law and international civil aviation rules, he added.

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Hong Kong, Shenzhen airports team up to provide “more options for travellers”

New agreement aimed at offering more travel options in Pearl River Delta

A new agreement has been signed that will strengthen the aviation links between Hong Kong and neighbouring Shenzhen.

Hong Kong’s Airport Authority (AA) has penned a deal with Shenzhen Airport Management Company that aims to “synergise the development” of the two cities’ airports.

The partnership was signed by Fred Lam, chief executive officer of the AA, and Wang Yang, president of the Shenzhen Airport Management Company.

“The agreement has been signed after many rounds of meetings between the two parties. The strengthened cooperation between the two airports can enhance the optimisation of airspace resources in PRD (Pearl River Delta) region,” said Lam. He added that the two airports will also support the medium- and long-term expansion plans of each other.

The agreement outlines various areas of cooperation between Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) and Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport (SZIA). These include the establishment of a designated immigration channel at Shenzhen Bay for passengers and vehicles travelling between the two airports, and the enhancement of sea and land transport services.

The two parties will also work with airlines to develop “all-in-one” tickets that include hotel accommodation and transportation option such as flight, ferry and coach tickets.

AA said that the cooperation will provide “more options for travellers in terms of air ticket prices and flight schedules”.

At present, HKIA and SZIA operate the “Fly via Hong Kong” and “Fly via Shenzhen” services, which provide both passenger and baggage check-in services to travellers of the other airport. There are also 14 ferries and more than 80 coaches and limousines operating between the two hubs.

Accusation flies about runway views

The Town Planning Board is being accused of violating its own rules by not properly informing interested parties about dates when the pros and cons concerning the construction of a third runway at Hong Kong International Airport will be heard.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Town Planning Board is being accused of violating its own rules by not properly informing interested parties about dates when the pros and cons concerning the construction of a third runway at Hong Kong International Airport will be heard.

Green Sense chief executive Roy Tam Hoi-pong said 99 percent of the 12,000 submissions received by the board were against the construction, but only 200 representatives were at a hearing yesterday because of how the board handled invitations.

Tam said the board had sent e-mails to interested parties asking if they were available this month without giving any dates. So only 200 replied and were informed of yesterday’s meeting.

“Not only is the Town Planning Board acting as a rubber-stamp authority,” Tam said. “It now seems to have adopted administrative hegemony.” That led to him writing to the board yesterday, asking it to think again on opportunities for people to present their views. A failure to do so could lead to action such as seeking a judicial review.

But board chairman Michael Wong said a legal consultant had cleared the arrangement, though some people were unhappy about meetings on weekdays as they could not take time off work.

Wong said others had demanded improvements in the way meetings were held as “they might have to wait for a whole day before they could speak.”

Also yesterday, Civic Party members against the HK$140 billion runway protested outside the meeting venue, the board’s North Point offices.

Legislator Kwok Ka-ki said it was wrong to push on with plans when problems such as air-traffic control and financing were unresolved.

The board has amended the Chek Lap Kok outline zoning plan and defined parts of a reclamation as an “airport service area.” The board is now carrying out public consultation on the plan with four hearings this month and in January. JANE CHEUNG

Bid to delay third runway voted down

A motion, urging the government to delay construction of the third runway, was defeated by 13 pro-establishment legislators.

Civic Party lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki moved the motion yesterday in the Three-Runway System Advisory Committee, citing as reasons labor shortages and insufficient raw materials.

But after a two-hour debate at the Legislative Council, only five pan- democrats, including Kwok, supported the motion.

He expressed fears about cost overruns, citing the funding woes of the Hong Kong-Shenzhen-Guangzhou Express Rail Link, while technical problems, such as a so-called “sky wall,” remain unresolved.

“We don’t have enough manpower and raw materials. We don’t have any agreement [with the mainland] to resolve the sky wall. This is why we are in a hurry to sign contracts. We all know that once the airport signs the contracts, there’s no way back,” Kwok said.

People Power’s Albert Chan Wai-yip urged the government to first submit all related reports because without them, lawmakers cannot make a well-informed decision.

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force requires aircraft leaving Hong Kong to reach an altitude of more than 15,700 feet before they enter mainland airspace. This altitude restriction is commonly known as the sky wall.

However, pro-Beijing lawmakers said the project should not be delayed any further.

Tourism legislator Yiu Si-wing and transport legislator Frankie Yick Chi- ming said the third runway will benefit the tourism, logistics and trading sectors.

Airport Authority chief executive officer Fred Lam Tin-fuk said sea sand will be bought from China and imported labor considered for the project, which has seen its budget increase to HK$141.5 billion from HK$84.5 billion.

MPs advise against Heathrow expansion until conditions met

The British government should not give final approval to the expansion of London’s Heathrow [FGPTOW.UL] airport until it shows it accepts and will comply with environmental conditions, a parliamentary committee said in a report.

Members of parliament on the Environmental Audit Committee said Heathrow must show it can reconcile expansion with a commitment to introduce a ban on night flights, a legal commitment on air quality and demonstrate that an expanded Heathrow would be less noisy than a two-runway Heathrow.

“The communities living near to the roads around Heathrow already put up with noise and extra traffic, it would be quite unacceptable to subject them to a potentially significant deterioration in air quality as well,” committee chairman Huw Irranca-Davies said in a statement.

A government-appointed Airports Commission named Heathrow as the preferred site for London airport expansion in July, and Prime Minister David Cameron has said he will decide by the end of the year whether a new 23 billion-pound ($35 billion) runway should be built there.

Heathrow said the committee was right to look at the environmental impact of expansion but said its plan would make Heathrow quieter and served by improved public transport links which would help improve air quality.

The airport has been campaigning for years to be allowed to add a third runway because it is operating at full capacity but it faces opposition from some prominent politicians, local residents in west London and environmental groups.

Activists opposed to the expansion of Heathrow blocked an approach tunnel last week, bringing traffic chaos to Europe’s busiest airport.

The final decision on expansion poses problems for Cameron who pledged to voters before an election in 2010 that he would not allow a third runway, “no ifs, no buts”. His party’s candidate for next May’s London Mayoral election is also opposed to expansion of Heathrow.

Gatwick airport, Heathrow’s rival to the south of the capital, said the parliamentary committee’s report brought into question the basis for the Airport Commission’s recommendation.

“The Committee questions the entire legal basis of the Airports Commission report on air quality and highlights the many other environmental hurdles facing Heathrow expansion,” said Gatwick’s Chief Executive Stewart Wingate.

“It is increasingly clear only expansion at Gatwick is legal and can actually happen.”

Heathrow’s largest shareholder is Spanish infrastructure firm Ferrovial (FER.MC). Other partners include Qatar Holding, China Investment Corp and the Government of Singapore Investment Corp.

(Reporting By Aurindom Mukherjee in Bengaluru and Michael Holden in London; Editing by Stephen Addison)

Heathrow Airport expansion: Environmental conditions ‘must be met’

The government should not support the building of a third runway at Heathrow until a number of environmental conditions can be met, MPs have said.

The Airports Commission published a report backing a third runway in July.

But the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee report said firm plans to deal with climate-changing emissions, air quality and noise need to be put in place.

A final government decision is expected by the end of the year.

Labour MP Huw Irranca-Davies, chairman of the committee, said it would be “irresponsible” to postpone dealing with the environmental impact of expansion at Heathrow.

He warned that to do so “could lead to legal challenges as a result of the potential damage to public health from increased air pollution and noise”.

“If the government decides to accept the commission’s recommendation for a third runway in principle, we will seek assurances from the secretary of state for transport that environmental conditions will be met before it is given final approval,” he added.

BBC business editor Kamal Ahmed said senior sources at the company that runs Heathrow have told him the “mood music” around the decision to expand is in favour of the third runway being approved.

The cross-party committee said legal air pollution limits would have to be reached if the west London airport expands and also called for a ban on night flights to ease noise.

The MPs said the airport had to show that an expanded Heathrow would be less noisy than it is with two runways. Their report also called for Heathrow to say it would cover the costs of surface transport improvements.

The Airports Commission has already called for flights between 23:30 and 06:00 to be banned.

Heathrow currently has said it wants a “review” of the issue and has not made any pledges over night flights. The airport has also said it plans to ensure more people arrive by public transport to keep emissions down.

‘Policy vacuum’

Mr Irranca-Davies said: “The communities living near to the roads around Heathrow already put up with noise and extra traffic.

“It would be quite unacceptable to subject them to a potentially significant deterioration in air quality as well.”

A strategy to deliver aviation emissions at no higher than 2005 levels by 2050 should be put in place by the government, the committee’s report recommended.

It also called for a Community Engagement Board to be set up to increase trust between local residents and the government.

Mr Irranca-Davies said: “Planes are becoming more fuel efficient, but this alone will not keep aviation emissions in line with the government’s climate change targets given the growth in passenger numbers.

“Even without expansion, aviation is on track to exceed its climate change target. We heard evidence that those targets might be met in theory, but at present there is a policy vacuum and evidence-based scepticism as to whether they can be met in practice.”

Heathrow’s chief executive John Holland-Kaye told the committee earlier this month that the airport could comfortably expand to include a third runway and still stay within environmental targets.

At the time, he said the issue of night flights was one that Heathrow was looking at and would comment on “in due course”.

The issue of Heathrow’s expansion has been a long-running and contentious issue.

In 2009, while in opposition, David Cameron ruled out Heathrow expansion, saying “no ifs, no buts”.

The Airport Commission’s recommendation in July was criticised by competing airport Gatwick, and by London Mayor Boris Johnson, who has argued for a whole new airport.

Environmentalists and residents who live near the flight path of the proposed third runway have also campaigned against it.

Plea to ground the third runway plan

The Civic Party is urging the Airport Authority to delay construction of the third runway because of a labor shortage and insufficient raw materials that have beset major projects such as the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge.

The Civic Party is urging the Airport Authority to delay construction of the third runway because of a labor shortage and insufficient raw materials that have beset major projects such as the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge.
Legislator Kwok Ka-ki said the construction of the third runway might go over the budget as has the bridge project and the Liantang Boundary Control Point, which have cited both reasons for the delay.

The authority estimates that the runway will cost HK$141.5 billion.

On that, Kwok said: “With reference to other overbudget infrastructure projects, we estimate the cost of the third runway will increase by 20 percent, or an additional HK$28 billion.”

Since the authority is not expected to sign the deal with contractors until next year, he said, there is time for government officials to reconsider the schedule and to suspend it for now.

Kwok also said there are many other problems that have not been resolved including the so-called “sky wall” a requirement by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force for aircraft departing from Hong Kong to be at an altitude of more than 15,700 feet before entering mainland airspace.

“Why did the government give the green light to building the third runway when it knows the cost has been increasing?” Kwok said.

Hung Wing-tat, an associate professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said that in 2009 the government estimated there would be 40,000 vehicles using the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, but the number is likely to be less due to economic slowdown.

Last week, the Highways Department revealed that completion of the bridge has been put back a year until the end of 2017.

Hung also said the government should have estimated the possible labor shortage and a lack of materials during the project planning stages and it should not now be used as the main excuse for a delay in the construction.

He also criticized officials for a delay in implementing the boundary crossing agreement.

Kwok said he will question the Three- Runway System Advisory Committee in the Legislative Council tomorrow.

In a statement on Saturday, Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung Bing- leung said the Joint Works Committee of the Three Governments will be making a final call on completing the bridge and its opening.