New heliport poised for liftoff in Wan Chai

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 February, 2008, 12:00am

Noise concerns played down

Permanent heliport facilities will finally be realised in the heart of Hong Kong, paving the way for more convenient commercial short-haul travel despite worries about noise and pollution.

The government will seek funding for the proposed Wan Chai heliport from the Legislative Council by the middle of this year.

The project is estimated to cost HK$23 million.

It includes three pads for government and commercial use at the northeastern corner of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre site.

No reclamation is necessary.

Robbie Brothers, chairman of the Hong Kong Regional Heliport Working Group, said the project was not contentious but had not really been a priority of the government, especially since the Government Flying Service (GFS) had the use of a temporary helipad at the former Wan Chai Public Cargo Working Area.

The Central Helipad facilities in Lung Wui Road, Admiralty, were closed in January 2004 for reclamation work.

The group, which represents the local helicopter industry, has been pushing for a permanent heliport in the central business district.

The government plans to brief Wan Chai District Council on the project next month before seeking funding approval from Legco's public works subcommittee and Finance Committee by the middle of the year.

Raymond Ho Chung-tai, who chairs the public works subcommittee and is a member of the Finance Committee, said a heliport should be conveniently located in the central business district and not just at the Macau ferry terminal in Sheung Wan, which is not close to urban areas.

He also said the cost should not be a problem as the project would be tendered out.

The government has told the group that the use of the heliport would be shared but absolute priority had to be given to government emergency and other essential flying services at all times.

'We have no qualms about giving way to emergency services,' Mr Brothers said. 'But the GFS said no commercial operator can use the facilities when its helicopters are using it, not even the parking pad. This is impractical and creates unnecessary flights, adding to costs and creating more noise.'

The consultant report said the noise impact of the heliport on Causeway Centre, which is the nearest residential building at 450 metres away, was 74 decibels, within the 85-decibel limit specified in the Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines. Strong winds created by helicopter use could also be mitigated by a barrier, the report concluded.

Avid aviator Sir Michael Kadoorie, who provides limited rooftop helicopter services at The Peninsula hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui, has long supported helicopter travel, saying helicopters are more suitable than corporate jets for flying times of less than one hour.