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Asia-Pacific Airports magazine turns the spotlight on Hong Kong International Airport’s multi-billion dollar third runway project.

Hong Kong International Airport has begun construction work on the new three-runway system (3RS) that it believes will guarantee its long-term success.

The airport, which currently has two runways, claims that a third is vital to ensure that it is capable of meeting future demand, and to accommodate it, it first has to reclaim 650 hectares of land from the sea.

According to operator Airport Authority Hong Kong (AAHK), the 3RS project will cost HK$141.5 billion (US$18.2 billion) and is expected to take eight years to complete, although it is confident that the new 3,800-metre runway will be commissioned two years earlier in 2022.

Economic impact

AAHK’s chairman, Jack So Chak-kwong, says: “The 3RS is a critical infrastructure project to support the aviation industry and the long-term economic development of Hong Kong.

“We urgently need this expansion project as HKIA’s existing two-runway system is reaching its full capacity soon. 

“With the additional capacity to be provided by the 3RS, airlines can provide more destinations and more frequent flights, and passengers will have more choices and convenience. 

“Some 139,000 man-years of construction jobs are expected to be created during the construction phase, with some 123,000 direct employments created upon the commencement of the 3RS operation.”

Build and design

The construction entails reclamation of approximately 650 hectares of land, which will be completed in phases for the subsequent works such as the new runway, taxiway system and 280,000sqm concourse with 57 parking positions.

According to the airport, the new concourse will be “traveller-centric, hi-tech and environmentally friendly” and feature a design that balances operational efficiency with HKIA’s commitment to being one of the world’s greenest airports. 

“It will boast many green features and a courtyard at the centre of the concourse, where its lush green lawn and groves of trees offer a tranquil setting for relaxation and enjoyment,” promises AAHK.

“Spanning a floor area of around 283,000 square metres, the spacious concourse will offer departure and arrival passengers a green environment with plenty of natural sunlight, exquisite shopping experience and a wide array of dining options.”

Currently referred to as Third Runway Passenger Building, the new concourse will be connected to Terminal 2 by a new Automated People Mover (APM) system. 

AAHK reveals that it will build a 2,600-metre long track to accommodate the APM, which will be equipped to handle 10,800 passengers per hour. And with a top speed of 80km/h journey times between T2 and the new concourse are guaranteed to take no longer than two-and-a-half minutes.

As part of the project, Terminal 2 will be modified and expanded. 

The 3RS will also include a new high-speed baggage handling system (BHS), expanded road and transportation networks. 

AAHK believes that the BHS’s top speed of 36km/h means that it will be able to deliver the first bags to the baggage reclaim carousels within 20 minutes of a flight’s arrival and the last within 40.


Land reclamation

The huge land formation programme will account for around 40% of the budget of the entire 3RS project, which is perhaps not surprising when you consider that 650 hectare site recovered to the north of the existing airport island will be protected by a new 13.4 kilometre-long seawall.

To protect the environment, non-dredge methods including deep cement mixing will be adopted for land formation, while the 3RS buildings will incorporate a range of green and sustainable features in their design, construction and operational aspects.

Indeed, such is the size of the project that AAHK claims that the scale of works is similar to the construction of a new airport.

Upon completion, the new three-runway equipped gateway will be capable of accommodating around 100 million passengers and nine million tonnes of cargo annually – some 30 million more passengers than today.


The mammoth project will be part funded by a new Airport Construction Fee (ACF), which will be added to the cost of airline tickets and paid to AAHK when passengers depart HKIA. 

Under the terms of the financial agreement for the 3RS, the ACF will remain in effect until all borrowings related to the project are fully repaid.

In essence the funding for the project is based on a “joint contribution and user-pay” principle and will come three sources – bank loans and bonds; HKIA’s operational surplus, which has typically been paid to the government as dividends; and end-users, including passengers and airlines.

CEO, Fred Lam, enthuses: “Around 70% of HKIA’s passengers are non-Hong Kong residents. Our suggested user-pay principle makes good sense, because subsidising the project through the government means local taxpayers would be footing the bill for overseas passengers.”

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