Cathay boss forecasts delay for new airport

CATHAY Pacific managing director Rod Eddington yesterday questioned the Provisional Airport Authority's (PAA) ability to complete Hong Kong's new airport at Chek Lap Kok before the transfer of sovereignty in June 1997.

However, he doubted that there would be any substantial delay.

Political rows between Hong Kong, Britain and China over the financing of the project have hampered the PAA's ability to do its job.

Mr Eddington, speaking at an Indian Chamber of Commerce lunch, said it would be more realistic to expect the new airport to open at the end of 1997 or in early 1998.

He was confident that Britain and China would be able to agree on the financing of the giant development before the end of this year, allowing the construction of the terminal, runway and ancillary buildings to begin.

''I am confident that the new airport development will get the go-ahead sooner rather than later and there won't be any substantial delays,'' he said.

Financing for the reclamation of land at Chek Lap Kok has already been agreed, allowing much of the ground preparation work to be carried out.

There has been plenty of other preparatory work for the day when the green light is given.

''A lot of the building blocks are in place so it should all be pretty quick and straightforward as soon as the financing problem is settled,'' said Mr Eddington.

The sooner Chek Lap Kok opens, the better as far as airlines flying into Hong Kong are concerned.

The territory's existing airport at Kai Tak is reaching capacity at peak times of day, resulting in calls for Hong Kong's strict night curfew on take-offs and landings to be eased.

While most airlines will have the option of using nearby airports under expansion or construction while waiting for Chek Lap Kok to open, Mr Eddington said Cathay would remain committed to Hong Kong, and not begin using the likes of Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Zhuhai or Macau as a stop-gap.