Why Hong Kong cannot afford to stand still and needs third runway

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 May, 2015, 5:55pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 May, 2015, 5:55pm

Clive Noffke of Lantau argued in his letter ("Numbers don't add up in runway plan", April 30) that a conventional traffic forecast based on past trends would probably be trumped by unforeseen market circumstances, and that the case for the third runway was, at best, questionable.

Underlining Mr Noffke's view about the vulnerability of our airport business is the conventional perception that an airport is a transportation infrastructure that primarily serves to meet the air transport needs of local residents. No wonder he questioned how our small population could possibly fill up one the biggest aviation hubs in the world.

In the case of Hong Kong, however, our airport is part of the economic infrastructure that supports the city's growth and development.

Despite its small size and limitations due to a lack of natural resources, Hong Kong has grown to become the eighth-largest trading economy in the world and the seventh-largest stock market by market capitalisation.

Our airport supports Hong Kong's four-pillar economic sectors - financial services, trading and logistics, tourism, and producer and professional services - which account for more than half of the city's gross domestic product. The volume of traffic we handle at the airport, in terms of both people and cargo, is a reflection of the thriving economic activities that take place in Hong Kong.

In other words, the case for the third runway does not rely solely on a methodologically robust traffic forecast.

It is also built upon our vision for the future of Hong Kong, and our recognition of the pressing need to enhance our city's competitiveness amid other markets from way beyond the Pearl River Delta. Almost every single successful aviation hub in the Asia-Pacific region is either building or planning substantial airport expansion projects. Hong Kong simply cannot afford to stand still.

Dubai's success is a timely reminder for Hong Kong. They have been successful in converting a piece of desert into a state-of-the-art airport that overtook Heathrow as the busiest aviation hub in the world in 2014, handling about 70 million international passengers.

Few people in Dubai would question why their population could support such a volume of air traffic.

We also should not allow unfounded doubts about the third runway to stunt the growth of Hong Kong.

Wilson Fung, executive director, corporate development, Airport Authority Hong Kong