Airport Authority board reject plan to move train depot for third runway
Huge cost of moving depot for driverless third runway train would outweigh improved land value, Airport Authority board were told
The huge cost of moving the depot for the train meant to serve the new terminal at Hong Kong International Airport's proposed third runway - and the delay it would cause to the opening of the runway itself - has led the Airport Authority board to vote against changing its plans for the airport.
The board was informed that the cost of moving the depot would be double the reduction in the value of the land, estimated by a consultancy firm, that would occur if the depot remained in its original location.
The cost and the need to complete the third runway on time finally put an end to the argument between the board's chairman Marvin Cheung Kin-tung and board member Vincent Lo Hong-sui over the North Commercial District project.
Board members including Lo - who had advocated relocating the depot - unanimously agreed to keep the driverless electric rail yard underneath the commercial development, as originally planned.
The authority now plans to kick-start the project by beginning construction of a hotel on the site as soon as possible. "Although developing the site in phases will reduce land value, we were informed that moving the depot and delaying the airport as a result would cost almost double that reduced land value," one board member told the Post on condition of anonymity.
"The high cost is mainly due to inflation if the construction of the runway is delayed," the member added.
The 120,000 square metre site between Terminal 2 and the AsiaWorld-Expo is currently a temporary golf course. The commercial project, comprising a hotel and mall, was proposed to offer tourists an alternative to heading into the city and to strengthen development on Lantau.
Lo, widely tipped as the next board chairman, had wanted the rail depot built by the runway site, which would have prolonged the environmental impact assessment of the runway - expected to completed by 2023 - by at least six months.
He also complained that the authority had withheld reports from board members which found keeping the depot underground would reduce the site's value by billions.
Yesterday Cheung said the authority had yet to come up with an accurate estimate of the reduction in land value. He stressed the new runway was on schedule and its environmental impact assessment report would be submitted for government approval early next year.
Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said the timing of the project would inevitably be delayed by the depot, but priority should be given to the runway.
"I believe that in the circumstances this is the best arrangement as the [authority] has committed themselves to design and build the depot without too much interference [above it]," said Lo.
But he admitted it was a compromise. "I supported the decision as I bear the city's overall interest in mind. Personally, I still believe the depot could be relocated."
Lo resigned as chairman of the authority's infrastructural planning committee early last month over the row but stayed on as a board member. He reaffirmed that decision yesterday. "I couldn't advance the commercial plan under my leadership. It wasn't an impetuous decision."