STH's opening remarks on three-runway system (with video)

Following is the speech by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, at a press conference on the three-runway system at the Hong Kong International Airport today (March 17):

The Executive Council has considered Airport Authority's (AA) recommendations and re-affirmed the need for the three-runway system (3RS) to maintain Hong Kong's competitiveness as a global and regional aviation hub, and to cater to our long-term economic and development needs.

AA is asked to take forth the 3RS project and in consultation with the Government, explore way to facilitate its early implementation, building in appropriate contingencies to cater for possible scenarios in the course of implementation.

The 3RS is more than a transport infrastructure project. It is essential to keep our economy going.

AA has completed the statutory Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process in November last year, and obtained the Environmental Permit (EP) for the project from the Director of Environmental Protection. The EIA reports assessed and proposed various conservation/mitigation measures with respect to 12 environmental aspects including, for example, aircraft noise, air quality and marine ecology, including the conservation of Chinese White Dolphins.

AA will strive to fulfill all the conditions and commitments as set out in the EIA report and the relevant EP with a view to achieving "development alongside environmental conservation" in the implementation of the project.

AA has critically reviewed the scope of the 3RS project and advised that the updated capital cost for this project is estimated to be $141.5 billion in money-of-the-day prices. AA plans to finance the project through multiple channels including the use of internal funds, external borrowings and charging users.

The Government supports AA's plan to self-finance the project under the "joint contribution" principle. Given AA's excellent credit rating (AAA), external borrowing is financially viable. It will also allow the market to exercise financial prudence in scrutinising the business viability of the project.

The Hong Kong International Airport's level of overall airport charges now ranks one of the lowest among the 55 international airports studied by a consultant survey. The Government therefore agrees there is room for increasing airport charges, which is actually to bring such charges back to the level before 2000, with subsequent adjustments in line with inflation.

As regards AA's proposal to collect an Airport Construction Fee (ACF) from departing passengers, we note it is not uncommon in other airports to impose similar levies. Nevertheless, we consider that AA should increase its borrowings in order to lower the ACF level so as to reduce the burden on passengers.

Airspace and its management naturally determine how much air traffic an airport can accommodate within international safety limits. In 2004, recognising the need to optimise the utilisation and management of Pearl River Delta (PRD) airspace, a tripartite working group was formed among the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department and Macao Civil Aviation Authority, to work out planning targets and measures to enhance co-operation, co-ordination and standardisation of procedures and measurements. The result was a PRD airspace management plan in 2007 aiming at implementing various enhancement measures by phases before 2020.

AA's target runway capacity of 102 flights per hour under the three-runway system was premised on such plan which also envisaged five runways for Guangzhou and three runways for Shenzhen.

Several measures have been rolled out in recent years. The Central Authorities including CAAC are supportive of the three-runway system for Hong Kong. We will work closely with CAAC on relevant technical details for pressing ahead the 2007 plan, and addressing the needs of all parties in achieving a win-win scenario for all.

AA will review its financial arrangement proposal and design scheme for the 3RS in consultation with Government, to ensure the financing arrangements are fair and reasonable, and that the capital investment is well justified.

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Ends/Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Issued at HKT 20:55