Some sharp questions will be asked about the government’s proposed HK$80 billion third runway at Chek Lap Kok airport when a consultation on the project begins on Thursday.
The aviation industry is united in its call for a third runway, believing it is needed for Hong Kong to maintain its position as a leading aviation hub in the region. But critics are quick to point out that there are cheaper options, such as forming a strategic alliance with nearby Shenzhen airport.
A proposed rail link, estimated at HK$50 billion, would connect the two and many hope that by pooling resources, both airports could reduce the need for unnecessary expansion. The idea of the rail link is being considered by the government, although a detailed plan will not be ready for two years.
But supporters of the new runway said the two projects were not mutually exclusive.
A person familiar with the situation said the proposed railway was never meant to be a replacement for the third runway.
The rail link was once classified as one of 10 major infrastructure projects in 2008. But a lack of obvious benefits has seen it being put on hold for further study.
The Airport Authority estimates that the two runways at Chek Lap Kok will run out of capacity by 2020. Air traffic will have to be slowed if there is no third runway.
But even if the runway can be justified economically, it remains to be seen if it can pass environmental impact tests.
Some environmentalists have raised concerns over the possible impacts on air quality and the endangered Chinese white dolphins. They say the government needs to come up with plans to lessen the damage.
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