Inside the new Hong Kong satellite terminal 2015: Airport Authority graphic
Inside the new Hong Kong satellite terminal 2015: Airport Authority graphic

The announcement of a new midfield terminal for Hong Kong airport is another painful reminder of planning policy failure at Sydney Airport.

By 2015, and for around $900 million, the compact 1255 hectare sized Hong Kong airport will gain 20 more gates, at least three of them A380 capable, and capacity for an additional 10 million passengers a year.

In its last 12 month reporting period, two runway Hong Kong handled 50.9 million people, while Sydney, with three runways and 900 hectares of land handled 33.4 million.

Neither airport is currently using its maximum operational capacity for airliner arrivals or departures of 68 per hour in the case of Hong Kong or 80 per hour at Sydney.

Mid field Hong Kong 2015: Airport Authority graphic
Midfield Hong Kong 2015: Airport Authority graphic

The Hong Kong satellite terminal, which is only intended to be accessed from airside through the existing terminals, fits neatly between its two parallel runways to the west of the existing facility.

Both cities are faced with growth prospects that cannot be accommodated with existing infrastructure, as the Federal Government has confirmed in the case of Sydney despite the contrary claims by SACL which officially believes nothing needs to be done deal for the future in terms of a new airport other than having the sky go dark with A380s flying on all routes, even to Dubbo.

(OK, that’s a satirical observation. But seriously, doing nothing about a second airport NOW is a life or death matter for the future of Sydney, for which the death sentence will be declaring that the additional airport will be built somewhere other than Sydney, which is an as willfully stupid policy setting as it is possible to devise.)

The Hong Kong midfield terminal could fit easily into the site Federal Labor chose for a second Sydney Airport 24 years ago at Badgery’s Creek, even though it is today down to 1700 odd hectares, but well located for motorway and railway connections.

It is also interesting to try and decipher the space between the lines in the Hong Kong announcement.  A third runway for Hong Kong airport is possible, but is now described as a study option.  And no matter how those options are read, the certainty that Hong Kong, as part of the PRD or Pearl River Delta, will need a second airport is beginning to come into sharper focus.

That airport may well be in Shenzhen, which if it wasn’t for some border formalities, looks like a more uniformly contemporary northern extension of greater Hong Kong.

Back here, the absurdities pile up.  The quest for a Sydney airport anywhere but in Sydney is supposed to lead to a recommendation by around May, or June, or July, or after the next election.  But the sanctity of 15-30 seat turbo-prop flights into Sydney airport has been reaffirmed, meaning that the 2nd ‘Sydney but not Sydney’ airport could be further from the CBD than the originating towns for some of the country flights guaranteed eternal peak hour access.

The access plaza is above an underground automated rail shuttle from the main terminals
The access plaza is above an underground automated rail shuttle from the main terminals

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey