HONG KONG (Reuters) - Airport Authority Hong Kong, operator of the world’s busiest air cargo airport, said on Thursday that a proposed third runway with an estimated price tag of $17 billion was necessary to keep up with rapid growth in air traffic.
After a three-month public consultation on its development plan, the authority recommended that the government build a new runway at Hong Kong International Airport as the two existing runways are forecast to be saturated by 2020.
“There is a clear consensus on the need to make a decision regarding HKIA’s (Hong Kong International Airport) expansion as soon as possible,” said AAHK Chairman Marvin Cheung in a statement. “It’s clear that the majority of those who participated in the consultation prefer the three-runway option.”
Construction costs including land reclamation are estimated at HK$136.2 billion, factoring for inflation, or HK$86.2 billion in 2010 dollar terms.
Hong Kong overtook Memphis in 2010 as the world’s busiest air cargo hub on the back of strong import and export growth in China, especially the Pearl River Delta region. The airport ranked third worldwide in terms of international passenger flows in 2010 after London and Paris.
The Civic Party, Hong Kong’s liberal democratic political party, warned that the final cost for the new runway would be higher the authority’s estimate.
“The Hong Kong airport authority produced a handicapped report that is incomplete and does not include socio-environmental costs,” said Civic Party Vice-Chairman Albert Lai.
He called on the government to return to the drawing board for a full re-assessment of all costs and benefits.
The Civil Party’s reservations have been echoed by academics.
Law Cheung, associate director of the Aviation Policy & Research Centre at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said planning and studies for major infrastructure projects should be initiated by the government rather than advocators.
“There are concerns about the cost and environmental impact of the three-runway system,” he said. “Hong Kong will need a third runway and that’s imperative, but what about building a shorter or narrower one with less pollution and cost?”
Reporting by Alison Leung; Editing by Chris Lewis