'100 flights per hour' with extra runway
Dennis Eng and Charlotte So
Airport study to be completed in two years
The government expected aircraft movements to increase to more than 100 per hour from next year's hourly rate of 58 if a third runway were built at the airport, transport minister Eva Cheng said yesterday.
Speaking at the opening of the DHL Central Asia Hub facility at the airport, Ms Cheng revealed that the government was carrying out an environmental impact study on a third runway within the coming two years. She did not comment on how long it would take to build a runway.
'The runway capacity could be substantially increased to over 100 movements per hour with the addition of a third runway,' she said. 'Engineering and environmental feasibility studies are under way for this important infrastructure.'
The number of aircraft movements from the existing two runways combined could grow to 68 per hour by 2015, according to a study. This was not a fixed limit as tweaking other factors could yield greater capacity, Airport Authority chairman Marvin Cheung Kin-tung said.
Authority chief executive Stanley Hui Hon-chung said a much clearer picture would emerge within two years about what would need to be built, the timetable and other details.
The completion of the engineering and environmental feasibility studies did not mean the runway decision would be made after two years, an authority spokesman said.
Factors relating to the environmental and economic impacts and associated costs of a third runway, as well as the alternatives and consequences of not building one, would all be considered, Mr Hui said.
Li Chung-lun, professor of logistics management at Polytechnic University, said he expected a third runway to be extremely expensive.
'The estimated capacity increase in aircraft movements from the addition of a third runway needs to be weighed against its cost. Is it justified?' Professor Li said.
'As the maximum capacity has not been reached yet, some people may prefer the airport to have bigger planes, diverting smaller aircraft to airports in the Pearl River Delta.'
The airport has strategic investments in competing airports in the Pearl River Delta and the mainland, including a 35 per cent interest in Hangzhou airport near Shanghai and a 55 per cent stake in the managing company of Zhuhai airport. Mr Cheung played down competition fears of neighbouring mainland airports. He said Shenzhen airport had a very successful domestic operation, while the strength of Hong Kong's airport was in international routes.
The authority reported an 18 per cent increase in profit for the fiscal year ending in March but warned the short-term outlook for passenger growth would be hurt by rising oil prices, inflation and direct flights between Taiwan and the mainland.