The government and the Airport Authority have been accused of keeping the public in the dark by failing to put a price on the controversial third runway at Chek Lap Kok.
Members of the Legislative Council panel on economic development grilled Transport and Housing Bureau officials and airport chiefs yesterday. They feared the project could go the same way as other big infrastructure schemes, which have seen costs soar amid delays.
The authority put the price at HK$136 billion in 2011, but says design changes and rising building costs mean a new estimate will be needed. Lawmakers asked about the cost of 250 mitigation measures revealed in the authority's environmental impact report, published on Friday. They also asked about the likely cost of a delay as a result of any legal challenge to the report. A judicial review forced an expensive one-year delay to the nearby Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge.
"We don't have the data with us yet," replied Yau Shing-mu, undersecretary for transport. He said anyone who wished to seek a judicial review had the right to do so, but he hoped lawmakers and others sectors of society would support the runway plan.
Authority chief executive Stanley Hui Hon-chung said a report on the project budget and how it would be financed would be presented to the government at the end of the year. He said a one-year delay would add HK$9 billion to HK$10 billion.
Their answers failed to impress lawmakers, who saw similarities with the increased costings for the bridge to Macau, which rose by some HK$3 billion, and the HK$67 billion high-speed rail link to Guangzhou, which will open at least two years behind schedule, in 2017.
"I support the plan but I have lost confidence in the [bureau]" said lawmaker Lam Tai-fai. "You are incompetent in controlling costs and overseeing projects … I don't think [the runway] can be completed in time."
Chan Kam-lam said lessons should be learned from legal challenges to the bridge, while fellow lawmaker Sin Chung-kai said the government could fund the runway by foregoing the billions of dollars in dividends it received from the authority.
Yau said a government steering committee, led by the financial secretary, had been set up to oversee the scheme.