THE 10 inter-linked Airport Core Projects will help to raise the profile of Hong Kong's construction industry while offering companies engaged in one of the world's biggest projects an opportunity to upgrade their technical skills. David Gem, council member and chairman of the Civil Engineering Council, said: 'I see the airport core contracts as exciting and demanding for the construction industry. Undoubtedly, it will enhance the local industry and offer opportunities for technical advancement. 'ACP contracts are directly related to the airport but not necessarily on the Chek Lap Kok site itself.' Mr Gem said road and rail links posed technical challenges to engineers. Airport projects would put to the test many other skills of engineers 'because several of these projects are situated in already-congested areas', he said. 'This is particularly the case in relation to the West Kowloon expressway, where construction comes into contact with traffic from the container port. 'As a result, there is a need to carry out the work with a minimum of disruption to people and business. Another area easily overlooked is the supply of water and power which are an integral part of any of these projects.' So far, 147 airport contracts have been awarded by the Government. Japanese companies have secured the largest number - 25 per cent - while Hong Kong companies have gained 23 per cent. Much of the airport project work is at an advanced stage. The first stage of the New Town at Tung Chung is half complete; sections of tunnel that will form the third harbour crossing are in place; and work has started on the new airport express railway stations. The railway will carry up to 39,000 passengers a day at speeds of up to 135 kilometres per hour to the new airport. Most local companies involved in the billion-dollar contracts associated with the airport have been able to minimise the risks by entering into joint ventures with big companies and sub-contracting agreements. This will be an advantage to local companies because of the experience they can gain.