Constructing Hong Kong: Airport Authority ‘Three Runway System’ (3RS)

Posted by Steve Thomas on Monday, September 14, 2015

Unlike airport expansion plans in the UK with Heathrow, Gatwick and City Airport, the expansion of Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok Airport to a 3 runway facility has always had the air of inevitability about it in my opinion. Whether this is true or not, some significant concerns about environmental and practical issues have been overcome, from a legal point of view at least. Here is a brief summary of the timeline:

  • In June 2011, the AA published the HKIA Master Plan 2030 (MP2030)
  • On 7 November 2014, the Director of Environmental Protection approved the EIA report on the 3RS project. This included 56 conditions for construction relating to environmental and other considerations.
  • On 17 March 2015, the Executive Council affirmed the need to have the three-runway system.
  • Detailed design of the project is now underway, enabling works have started & tenders for reclamation works are expected to go out before the end of 2015.
  • Reclamation and construction works are anticipated to commence in the first half of 2016, and some enabling works have now already started.

The Hong Kong ‘Three Runway System 3RS’ Scope Comprises in Summary

  1. Reclamation of c650 hectares of land
  2. A new, third runway 3,800m in length
  3. A new passenger concourse of 283,000 m2 (similar to the existing T1), with 57 new aircraft parking positions
  4. A new AMP – Automated People Mover rail system connecting T2 with the new passenger concourse of 2.6km in length
  5. A new BHS – Baggage Handling System linking T2 with the new passenger concourse
  6. Expansion of the existing T2 Terminal 2 from being only a departure terminal to being a full terminal for arrivals and departures, similar in layout to the existing T1, of 300,000m2 in size with 216 check in counters and 8 baggage collection carousels and full road infrastructure upgrade
  7. Construction of other airport facilities and infrastructure such as catering
  8. An additional massive shopping facility is under consideration to be built near the BCF Border Control Facility that is already under construction relating to the Macau/China bridge nearby (on the old golf course that has now closed)

The Cost and Duration of the ‘Three Runway System 3RS’

The anticipated total cost currently stands at HK$141.5BN and comprises (at a stage before detailed design is complete) as follows:

  • Land formation HK$36.8BN
  • Runway/taxiway HK$6.5
  • Concourse & Apron HK$16.5
  • T2 Reconfiguration HK$9.5
  • APM HK$6.1
  • BHS HK4.5
  • Roads HK$4.3

Much of the Hong Kong Airport expansion project still requires town planning approval, and to be gazetted, however the remodelling of T2 can start as soon as its detailed design is completed and approved. Once underway, the project is expected to take 8 years of civil engineering and building construction to complete.

Complicating Factors

  1. Extensive reclamation is required, with a requirement to leave the existing marine mud in situ due to its contamination, which requires specialist ground improvement and stabilisation works on a massive scale (including the need to use deep cement mixing techniques). There is also currently a shortage of the sand required to do this type of reclamation work.
  2. 13.4km of seawall will be put in place which is a complicated procedure.
  3. With the remodelling of T2, T1 will have to be extended to help handle the capacity lost from T2 for a while during parts of the construction phase.
  4. The finer details of how the project is to be financed are not fully clear yet, however it is understood that it is to be funded by the HKAA (airport users effectively) rather than by the Hong Kong taxpayer.

Procurement and Construction

With detailed design continuing apace, discussion is now turning to how the works are to be packaged and procured. The HKAA expects it will do much of the construction supervision work itself, and take secondees from engineering or design consultancies as needed or will let particular packages of work as appropriate, although details relating to this area have not been finalised yet.

The existing Midfield Terminal development is due to be completed at the end of 2015, although this project is on a much smaller scale than the 3RS project.

The Hong Kong Airport Authority ‘Three Runway System’ (3RS) in Action & Lifespan

If all goes to current plan, the three runway enlarged Hong Kong airport could be live in 2024, after 8 years of construction. It is currently projected that the new facilities will cater for Hong Kong’s aviation needs for the next 15-20 years after that.

Predictions related to project duration and demand for passenger and freight capacity and usage are hard to make with great accuracy. It must be noted however, that the master plan and projections relating to the original Chek Lap Kok Airport ‘core programme’ that was completed in 1998 have broadly been very accurate and have brought massive economic benefit to Hong Kong and its position and standing as ‘Asia’s World City’.

Whether the same argument will apply to the 3 runway airport in the future, only time will tell. And for the UK, it may be a lesson demonstrating that doing nothing to secure progress and economic development – whether the price for this is worth paying is not something that a consensus can easily be reached on.



Steve Thomas
Director - Hong Kong & UK Construction Recruitment Specialist
Maxim Recruitment


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