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January 23rd, 2015:

Hong Kong’s proposed third runway would only reach a quarter of its potential due to airspace conflict: academics

Newly established watchdog claims HK$136b project would only reach quarter of its potential

The proposed HK$136 billion third runway at Chek Lap Kok would only raise the airport’s efficiency by a quarter of normal expectations due to unresolved airspace conflict with neighbouring cities, concern groups and academics said yesterday.

“It equals pouring in over HK$100 billion for a quarter of a runway,” said Lam Chiu-ying, adjunct professor of geography and resource management at Chinese University.

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Lam is one of four conveners of the newly established People’s Aviation Watch – a body set up to monitor the third runway project – which includes Friends of the Earth and other environmental groups, as well as academics from various disciplines.

The Airport Authority’s projection that handling capacity would increase from the current 68 flights per hour to 102 with the completion of the runway assumes Shenzhen airport would concede some of its existing airspace to Hong Kong, he said.

But the airspace conflict is the reason the current dual-runway system isn’t operating at its full capacity of 86 flights per hour, Lam said.

“The Airport Authority’s estimate is based on what they have yet to achieve,” he said.

Under the authority’s plan, aircraft using the third runway would overlap with existing flight paths of planes using Shenzhen Baoan International Airport at two points – over Jinxing Bay in Zhuhai, and over the Pearl River Delta.

“The central government may have to intervene if the Hong Kong and Shenzhen authorities fail to reach a consensus,” said Melonie Chau Yuet-cheung of Friends of the Earth.

In November last year, the government approved the environmental impact assessment for the runway despite strong opposition from conservationists.

The most expensive construction project since the handover – with a cost estimate of HK$136 billion in 2011 – still needs approval from the Executive Council on its design and funding.

The Airport Authority did not address the conflict issue directly, but said there were plans to “improve the management of airspace in the Pearl River Delta”.

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