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LCQ6: Development of the Hong Kong International Airport

     Following is a question by the Hon Wong Ting-kwong and an oral reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, in the Legislative Council today (October 23):


     The Government has given in-principle approval for the Airport Authority Hong Kong (AA) to adopt the three-runway system as the development option for the Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) to cope with the annual growth in passenger traffic and freight cargoes. Currently, AA is carrying out the environmental impact assessment (EIA) and the related planning work for the construction of the third runway. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) given that the air traffic movements (ATMs) at HKIA have been increasing continuously and are expected to reach the runway capacity of 68 movements per hour in 2015, but no date has been set for the construction works of the third runway to commence, of the measures put in place by the authorities to tackle the problem of ATMs reaching saturation; whether they have assessed if such a problem will result in flight delays and impact on aviation safety; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(b) given that the EIA of the third runway will not be completed until the end of this year or early next year at the earliest and it is learnt that the construction works concerned will take at least 10 years to complete, while airports in the neighbouring regions have been expanding continuously with increasing numbers of international routes, whether the authorities have assessed the financial losses and the impact on the competitiveness of Hong Kong to be brought about by ATMs reaching saturation; how the authorities strive to maintain Hong Kong's status and advantages as an international aviation hub; and
(c) given an official of the Civil Aviation Department has told the press that discussions with the civil aviation authorities of the Mainland and Macao on relaxing the height restrictions of the airspace in the Pearl River Delta region are under way and that daily flight movements within the region are expected to increase from 3 000 flights at present to 5 000 flights by that time, whether such plans can be implemented by 2020; of the details of the plans; what impact such plans will have on HKIA's runway capacity?


     The Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) is the busiest international cargo-handling airport in the world and ranks high on a global list of international passenger airports. In 2012, HKIA handled over 56 million passengers and 4 million tonnes of cargo, with 352 000 flight movements in total. The airport is crucial in maintaining Hong Kong's status as an international and regional aviation hub and in boosting our economic competitiveness. It also contributes significantly in promoting Hong Kong's global connectivity, economic and trade, and tourism developments.

     Against this background, the Airport Authority (AA) and the Civil Aviation Department (CAD) have been doing their utmost to proactively enhance the facilities and handling capacity of HKIA to meet the increasing air traffic demand. Since the airport's existing two-runway system will reach its capacity within the next few years, and we are facing fierce competition from other international airports in the region, we agree that there is a genuine need to expand HKIA. As a matter of fact, some of our competitors, like Singapore, are spearheading efforts to expand their airports.

     The Government gave in-principle approval for AA's proposal to adopt a three-runway system as the future development option for HKIA in March 2012. AA is taking forward the relevant planning work vigorously, including the statutory environmental impact assessment (EIA), scheme designs and the financing arrangements. The EIA process is expected to be completed around the third quarter next year. If the EIA is approved, we hope that construction works may commence as soon as possible, so that the three-runway system can be commissioned in 2023 to cope with air traffic demand until at least 2030. By that time, HKIA will handle more than 97 million passengers and 8.9 million tonnes of cargo annually.

     My consolidated reply to the various parts of Hon Wong Ting-kwong's question is as follows:

     To cope with both short and medium term air traffic demand and to tie in with the designed capacity of the two-runway system by increasing the handling capacity of HKIA to 70 million passengers and 6 million tonnes of cargo per annum, AA is implementing Phase 1 of its midfield expansion project. A passenger concourse is under construction to provide 20 additional aircraft stands. The project started in late 2011 and is expected to be completed by phases in 2015. At the same time, AA has started designing the development of Phase 2 of the midfield expansion project and is exploring the feasibility of providing additional aircraft stands. AA will also construct 28 new aircraft parking stands on the western part of the midfield area with a view to be completed by phases by the end of 2014.  Upon completion of all these expansion projects, the number of aircraft stands will increase by more than 30%.

     Regarding cargo facilities, the new Cathay Pacific Cargo Terminal has commenced operation by phases in February 2013 and has been in full operation since October 2013.

     Apart from the aforesaid expansion projects, AA has started a three-year facilities refurbishment programme since 2011. Enhancements cover passenger terminals, air-bridges, baggage handling systems, automated people movers and airfield ground lighting systems.  

     Safeguarding aviation safety and ensuring smooth flight operations are the priorities in civil aviation management. These two key elements were taken into consideration when professional expert consultants from National Air Traffic Services Ltd in the UK assessed the practical maximum runway capacity (i.e. 68 air traffic movements per hour) of the two-runway system, as covered in the Master Plan 2030. CAD's Schedule Coordination Office has set up a slot allocation mechanism based on guidelines issued by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. Through this mechanism, CAD effectively manages runway capacity, optimises flight utilisation and controls flight delays within a reasonable level. In collaboration with AA, CAD will continue to explore ways to meet airlines' keen demand for runway slots, so as to maximise the use of airport facilities and the room for air traffic movements before the commissioning of the third runway.

     CAD has been discussing with the Civil Aviation Administration of China and the Macao Civil Aviation Authority to enhance the utilisation of the Pearl River Delta (PRD) airspace. The tripartite working group has reached consensus in adopting the principles of joint airspace planning, use of common standards and harmonised flight procedure design with a specific objective to plan for the optimisation of the PRD airspace structure by 2020.
     With this understanding, the tripartite working group has agreed to gradually optimise the structure and management of the PRD airspace in the medium to long term, and to progressively establish a Southern PRD air traffic management region covering airports in Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Macao and Zhuhai. This will enhance coordination of air traffic management within the PRD region, making it less complicated and improving efficiency in flight operations. Furthermore, with air traffic control standards and procedures being harmonised progressively, the use of airspace and the efficiency in air traffic control operations will improve. With these improvements in place, the PRD region can cope with the anticipated air traffic growth within the region to some 5 000 aircraft movements per day by 2020.

     The above improvement measures have fully taken into account HKIA's three-runway operating mode and its demand for airspace, thus supporting the expected air traffic volume of 620 000 flight movements till 2032.  

Ends/Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Issued at HKT 15:27


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