Travellers should not have to help foot bill for Hong Kong's third runway

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 October, 2015, 12:01am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 October, 2015, 12:01am

Proposals for financing the third runway at Hong Kong International Airport have been revised.

Passengers will pay a construction fee of between HK$70 (if they are in transit) and HK$180 (if they are in first or business class on long-haul flights). The other means of financing the project are through bank loans and bonds and the operational surplus for project investments. This arrangement is not the best way to collect the funds needed to pay for the runway.

It is not right to place any financial responsibility on travellers. Tourism is one of Hong Kong's four pillar industries. When people travel here they boost our economy. It is unfair to expect them to pay a construction fee. That is the responsibility of the Airport Authority.

It is felt the third runway can help maintain Hong Kong's status as an Asia-Pacific transportation hub and commercial centre by increasing the efficiency of air transportation.

If the authority insists on imposing the construction fee on travellers, it could create a bad precedent.

Also, because of its revised charging system, the authority will generate less income from the construction fee imposed on passengers, so it will have to borrow more, approximately half the estimated cost of the HK$141.5 billion runway. This is too big a financial risk to take, especially if it goes over budget.

Look at projects like the high-speed rail link to Guangzhou which has gone about 30 per cent over the original budget. Is it possible the third runway could go over budget and if so how much more would have to be borrowed?

What would the authority do in these circumstances - impose another construction fee on passengers or ask the government for financial help? I think citizens are entitled to be concerned about the possible financial risks involved.

I think the authority needs to have a fresh look at its funding models and there must be a strong monitoring system in place.

Christy Chan Hoi-ching, Yau Yat Chuen