Thursday, June 2, 2011 Plans for airport expansion unveiled


Plans for airport expansion unveiled

Airport Authority to consult public on third runway

The Airport Authority said on Thursday it would consult the public on its Airport Master Plan for Chek Lap Kok â€" a blueprint that includes an option to add a third runway.

In the 20-year development schedule, the authority said a third runway could enable Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) to maintain the city's position as a leading global aviation hub beyond 2030.

It said air traffic demand had been increasing on the back of strong economic growth in Asia. Hong Kong therefore had to find ways to increase the capacity of the airport â€" because current facilities were expected to be saturated by 2020.

The authority said building a new runway would cost about HK$136.2 billion. The project would involve reclamation of about 650 hectares of land, along with building a new terminal, and airfield and facilities to service the new runway. The cost of this was estimated at HK$86.2 billion last year.

The authority said the cost difference had arisen because the latest estimates took inflation projections into account.

Authority statistics show around 307,000 flights used the airport in 2010, carrying 50.9 billion passengers and 4.1 million tonnes of cargo.

The plan would enable the airport to handle a maximum of 620,000 flights a year, and meet forecast annual passenger and cargo throughput of about 97 million and 8.9 million tonnes, respectively, the authority said.

Another option included in the plan would be to upgrade the airport's existing two runways, at a cost of HK$42.5 billion, to meet projected demand in the medium term.

This approach would allow the airport to handle 420,000 flights a year, with annual passenger and cargo throughput increased to 74 million and six million tonnes, respectively, the authority said.

Authority chairman Marvin Cheung Kin-tung said the expansion was linked to the continued development of Hong Kong as a thriving financial centre.

"With Asia Pacific â€" and in particular the mainland â€" increasingly driving global and regional economic growth, air traffic demand has been experiencing strong growth in the past decade," he said.

"The current two-runway system is forecast to be saturated by around 2020, and beyond that, HKIA will not be able to meet additional demand. This could irrevocably harm Hong Kong's position as a global aviation hub," he said.

A three-month public consultation would begin on Friday, the authority said.

Hong Kong became the world's busiest cargo hub last year, overtaking Memphis in the US. This was on the back of strong growth in the mainland, especially in the Pearl River Delta region.

The airport ranked third worldwide in numbers of international passengers flown last year, after London and Paris, aviation industry statistics showed.

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