Fourth runway study plans anger greens

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 January, 2013, 4:32am

Hong Kong must start thinking about a fourth airport runway to handle air traffic beyond 2030, the transport minister said yesterday.

But his comment drew a rebuttal from a veteran conservationist, who said the runway was unnecessary.

Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, secretary for transport and housing, told lawmakers in the commerce and economic development panel that the Airport Authority would be doing a preliminary strategic development study of the airport beyond 2030.

"Developments in Asian transport facilities will be examined, but the question of whether a fourth runway is needed will be unavoidable in the strategic study," he said.

The chairman of the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society, Dr Samuel Hung Ka-yiu, said he could not understand why a study was needed because the present airport would have no space for the runway.

He said Hong Kong had almost no room to accommodate even the proposed third runway and the fourth one would not be feasible or necessary.

There was a limit to the notion that more runway capacity would make the city economically more competitive.

"This is a competition we will never win over the mainland because they have massive land available for airports," Hung said.

Squeezing in a fourth runway at Chek Lap Kok would kill the nearby marine park unless the government built another airport somewhere else. Last March, the Executive Council supported building a third runway on reclaimed land instead of expanding the airport island.

The authority is working on the environmental impact assessment for the project, which will involve reclaiming 600 hectares at a cost of HK$136 billion.

The third runway will be able to cope with the projected increase in air traffic to 2030.

Until it is completed, the airport will increase its handling capacity by adding 14 new aprons where the aircraft are refuelled and prepared for departure.

The aviation industry is keen to have the third runway but the project has drawn heavy criticism from green groups, which say it could threaten the last remaining habitat of the endangered white dolphin.