In order to meet the growing air traffic demand and so maintain Hong Kong’s competitiveness as an international aviation hub (with half of the world’s population reportedly within 5 hours’ flying time), work is continuing on the construction of a third runway at Hong Kong International Airport. Hong Kong remains the world’s busiest airport for cargo, as well as one of the world’s busiest airports for passenger traffic.

The significant expansion project commenced in 2016, and has involved the reclamation of around 650 hectares of land from the sea. The project has been compared in scale to almost building a new airport next to the existing one. It is an ambitious project: besides the new 3.8 kilometre runway and more than 15 kilometres of associated taxiways, it will also involve construction of a new air traffic control tower and a new passenger terminal with 57 aircraft parking positions, and will be connected to the existing terminals by an automated people mover system and a new baggage handling system. The project also involves expanding the existing Terminal 2, work on which has already commenced.

The construction is set to cost around US$18 billion, of which nearly 20% is being funded by an Airport Construction Fee levied on airline tickets issued on or after 1 August 2016 for all passengers departing from Hong Kong. The levy is due to remain in place until all borrowings relating to the construction of the third runway have been fully repaid.

The new third runway is scheduled to enter service in 2022, at which time the existing North runway will be closed for repairs and re-configuration. All three runways are due to be in operation by the end of 2024 (although given the current capacity constraints at the airport there is pressure for that date to be brought forward). Traffic of 100 million passengers is targeted by 2024, and with strong passenger growth forecast it is perhaps not surprising that the possibility of a fourth runway has already been mooted.