Runway's first Legco landing is smooth

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 June, 2011, 12:00am


The proposed HK$136.2 billion third runway at Chek Lap Kok underwent its first formal scrutiny by legislators yesterday without any opposition being openly expressed.

'It is hard to deny the economic benefits,' was the most common opening remark by members of the Legislative Council economic development panel who spoke at the first briefing on the controversial project.

Even radical pan-democrats such as People Power's Albert Chan Wai-yip took this view despite challenging the project's cost-effectiveness and impact on the environment.

Two lawmakers asked whether the Airport Authority could minimise the reclamation - 650 hectares under the current proposal - by building a shorter runway.

But authority chief executive Stanley Hui Hon-chung said a full-length runway was needed.

'Even if we build a shorter runway, we can save only about HK$5 billion in cost and 50 hectares of sea from being reclaimed,' Hui said. 'However, we will lose a lot of flexibility.'

While a shorter runway of 2,800 metres would be enough for narrow-body planes - which account for about a third of all flights - it would be better to have another full-length one so that one of three could occasionally be closed for maintenance.

The authority began a three-month consultation on June 2 seeking public support before moving on to more detailed planning and an environmental impact assessment. However, it will be lawmakers who ultimately decide whether the funds for the project should be allocated.

Democrat Emily Lau Wai-hing said her party had yet to reach a position, while the Civic Party's Tanya Chan demanded authorities release all technical reports submitted on the plan - a request she also made in the last battle over the funding of the HK$66.9 billion high-speed railway to Guangzhou.

All pro-administration lawmakers, some Airport Authority directors, backed the project although some asked how much of the cost passengers would be asked to pay.

Hui said all airport users, including retailers and not just passengers, would share the costs if the user-pays principle was adopted.

He said even without the third runway, fares would be likely to rise as the airport reached saturation by 2020 and demand for flight slots exceeded supply.