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LCQ6: Development planning for air transport networks
     Following is a question by the Hon Chan Hok-fung and a reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Mr Frank Chan Fan, in the Legislative Council today (June 1):


     The National Comprehensive Three-dimensional Transportation Network Planning Outline, which was issued last year, puts forward developing urban helicopter transport services and building rapid air transport networks within city clusters. Meanwhile, the Guangdong Provincial Government's 14th Five-Year Plan for the development of comprehensive transportation systems puts forward supporting places like Guangzhou and Shenzhen to explore the launch of new city travelling modes such as "air taxis". On Hong Kong's integration into the development planning for the air transport networks of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (Greater Bay Area), will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it will reserve space and land in new development plans (e.g. the Lantau Tomorrow Vision project) for developing infrastructure for air transport and providing support facilities for helicopter transport services; if so, of the timetable;

(2) given that there is a suggestion for the Mainland to build, with Shenzhen as the centre and through air transport networks, a 15-minute economic and living circle within the Greater Bay Area, whether the Government will conduct studies relating to air transport among the cities of the Greater Bay Area; if so, of the details; and

(3) whether it will review the existing legislative framework in respect of developing brand new modes of city travelling (e.g. "air taxis"), so as to facilitate the alignment of such modes of travelling with those of the Mainland cities in the Greater Bay Area?



     We would like to thank the Hon Chan Hok-fung for the question.

     To take forward Pan-Pearl River Delta regional co-operation, including high-quality development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA), as set out in the National 14th Five-Year Plan, the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) has been proactively strengthening the mutual connectivity with the GBA through different initiatives. The Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area also suggests deepening the reform in the management of low-altitude airspace, expediting the development of general aviation and steadily developing cross-boundary helicopter services between Guangdong and Hong Kong.

     In fact, there have been cross-boundary commercial helicopter services between Hong Kong and various places in the GBA. Before the pandemic, cross-boundary commercial helicopter services between Hong Kong and Macao were available in the market. There were also individual commercial helicopter flights for travellers between Hong Kong and Zhuhai/Shenzhen from time to time. Developing cross-boundary commercial helicopter services can provide a point-to-point air transport service with greater flexibility, which may be similar to "air taxi" as the Hon Chan Hok-fung just mentioned, for high-end travellers to complement the prevailing transport network within the GBA, further enhancing the internationalised business environment in the GBA.

     Following up on the relevant provisions in the Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, the Transport and Housing Bureau (THB) and the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2019 to expand the Air Services Arrangement between the Mainland and the HKSAR, under which designated helicopter operators of both sides may operate flights between take-off/landing points in Hong Kong and within the whole Guangdong Province that fulfil relevant customs, immigration and quarantine (CIQ) arrangements. This greatly enhances the choice of potential take-off/landing points and the flexibility of services, providing a solid basis for expanding cross-boundary helicopter services between Hong Kong and other places in the GBA.

     At present, helicopter take-off/landing points in Hong Kong and the Guangdong Province that fulfil the relevant CIQ arrangements include Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport, Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, Hong Kong International Airport and Sky Shuttle Heliport in Sheung Wan.

     As for Hong Kong, cross-boundary helicopters mainly take-off and land at Sky Shuttle Heliport in Sheung Wan. The Heliport can handle about 50 000 take-off/landing movements per year, with only around 9 000 movements recorded in 2019 (i.e. pre-pandemic). The Heliport still has ample capacity, and will suffice in meeting the market demand for cross-boundary helicopter services between Hong Kong and other places in the GBA in the coming years. In addition, the Government Flying Service (GFS) is currently establishing its Kai Tak Division at the site annotated as "Heliport" at the tip of the ex-Kai Tak Runway. Depending on the future development of and market demand for cross-boundary helicopter services, cross-boundary helicopter operator(s) may also operate cross-boundary commercial helicopter services at the site, provided that the GFS's emergency services will not be affected.

     The specific development of cross-boundary helicopter services will hinge on market demand and the commercial considerations of helicopter operators. Since 2019, various Mainland helicopter operators conducted trial flights between Hong Kong and Shenzhen/Guangzhou. Relevant services are technically and operationally feasible. The HKSAR Government will maintain close communication with the relevant Mainland authorities on the design of flight paths.

     Meanwhile, in 2020, the CAAC further agreed Guangdong and Hong Kong to commence preparation for the provision of cross-boundary commercial helicopter services. To this end, Guangdong and Hong Kong are now exploring ways to further promote the development of cross-boundary commercial helicopter services, including studying the feasibility of setting up take-off/landing points that fulfil the relevant CIQ arrangements. Relevant bureaux/departments of the HKSAR Government, including the THB, the Security Bureau, the Customs and Excise Department, the Immigration Department and the Department of Health, are complementing a feasibility study being carried out by agencies in Shenzhen, and are providing advice based on their professional expertise through taskforce meetings with the Shenzhen side. The Shenzhen side expects to complete the feasibility study within this year. Based on the results of the study, both sides will further discuss the next step forward.

     As regards legislative framework, the operation of aircraft, including helicopters, is subject to the regulation under the Air Navigation (Hong Kong) Order 1995 (Cap. 448C) in order to ensure aviation safety. In addition, the use of aircraft for hire and reward is also subject to the regulation under the Air Transport (Licensing of Air Services) Regulations (Cap. 448A). The HKSAR Government will closely monitor the market demand for cross-boundary commercial helicopter services, and will review the relevant legislations and support as appropriate, with reference to the latest technical standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization.

     Thank you, President.
Ends/Wednesday, June 1, 2022
Issued at HKT 16:18
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