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December 11th, 2012:

Third runway will be costly white elephant

SCMP Letters 11 Dec 2012

I read with amusement the report (“International pilots back plan for third runway at Hong Kong Airport”, December 3).

Why do you find this interesting or newsworthy? Of course they would, wouldn’t they? International Formula 1 drivers would no doubt back a plan to turn the whole SAR into a racetrack, but that is no reason to do so, and no reason for the taxpayers to pay for it.

Far more to the point was the letter by Clive Noffke (“Shipping statistics sound a warning on airport runway three”, November 30). This shows that the Hong Kong government’s standard methodology of forecasting by simple extrapolation is fatally flawed – it was proved wrong with the proposed container terminal 10, and with the 2004 super prison. Falling container shipping numbers, taken with Cathay Pacific’s falling cargo numbers, show that the fundamental drift of exporters away from the Pearl River Delta is accelerating.

Add in the fact that passenger numbers are unlikely to increase, as more mainland airports open up direct flights to the rest of the world, and the case for a third runway starts to look very shaky.

But don’t worry, it will only cost HK$130 billion, and the cost will be passed on to the taxpayers, so of course “international pilots” are clamouring for it. And of course, when cargo and passenger volumes fail to materialise, it can always be used as a go-kart track, and the officials who backed it will have retired, so they won’t mind.

R.E.J. Bunker, Lantau