Monday, 4 August 2014

Use existing two runways more efficiently. Photo: David Wong
The South China Morning Post ran my letter on Saturday, 2nd Aug:

Explanation required for third runway
As usual, Jake van der Kamp nails it in his column ("Let spoiled airlines fund third runway, not the public purse", July 22).
Those speaking up for a third runway at Chek Lap Kok demand that taxpayers stump up at least HK$200 billion to pay for it. That's HK$30,000 for every man, woman and child in Hong Kong. Or nearly HK$200,000 per taxpayer.
Surely the proponents of the third runway owe us an explanation. Why don't they increase the efficiency of the airport, before demanding that we spend vast sums on more concrete?
We are told by various sources that efficiency of the airport has dropped dramatically in recent years, as more narrow-bodied aircraft flying to secondary airports are allowed landing slots.
These should be weeded out, to focus on wide-bodied jets servicing key cities.
Why not address that issue first? Can the Airport Authority come clean on this issue?
Peter Forsythe, Discovery Bay
Another correspondent makes similar points, in somewhat more detail:Link up with mainland airports
I am a former member of the Hong Kong airport consultative committee during the days before the development of the airport at Chek Lap Kok. I would like to comment on the article by Julia Yan, general manager of strategic planning and development at the Airport Authority, on the necessity of the third runway project ("Hong Kong must ride on the growth of global aviation or risk its own prosperity", July 9).
Ms Yan says Hong Kong must add a third runway, otherwise our status as an aviation hub would be undermined, severely limiting our economic development and air travel convenience and choices.
I believe that Hong Kong's economic success will continue to depend on our proximity and access to the mainland. As China becomes more integrated with the global economy, the lion's share of the people and goods entering and exiting Hong Kong will be connected to the mainland.
Due to the Chek Lap Kok site's geographical limitations, it can accommodate at most three runways and must share limited air space with nearby airports.
In contrast, by the time a third runway could be added, the airports in Guangzhou and Shenzhen would already have eight runways between them.
Therefore, the best way for us to maintain our status as an aviation hub is to strengthen our connection with nearby airports across the border by making Hong Kong airport part of an integrated regional aviation network.
The most obvious first step would be to connect Chek Lap Kok and Shenzhen Baoan International Airport by jumpstarting the development of the previously proposed Hong Kong-Shenzhen western express line.
Meanwhile, the efficiency of Chek Lap Kok's two-runway system can be significantly improved by maximising our synergies with mainland airports.
This would involve focusing on international routes and major mainland cities, leaving low-volume domestic routes to third- and fourth-tier cities to our neighbours across the border.
Infrastructure investment can be critical to continuing economic success. But we must be careful in choosing the right projects because it is always the taxpaying public that bears the cost of wasted resources and lost opportunities.
If someone can prove beyond reasonable doubt that Hong Kong would need to handle significantly increased air traffic over the long term, I would rather we consider building a second airport that can grow beyond three runways in a flexible and gradual manner.
Francis Neoton Cheung, Central