Macau's plans get off the ground: The Chinese are backing a new airport that will compete with Hong Kong. Robin Mead reports - Business - News - The Independent

Macau's plans get off the ground: The Chinese are backing a new airport that will compete with Hong Kong. Robin Mead reports

AS Hong Kong's new Governor, Chris Patten, struggles to reach agreement with China over the colony's proposed Chek Lap Kok airport, and who is going to pick up the dollars 6bn ( pounds 3.1bn) bill, the Chinese are quietly going ahead with plans that could lead to an aerial traffic jam within the next two or three years.

The only gateways to the region are Hong Kong's crowded Kai Tak international airport, and the mainland airport at nearby Guangzhou, formerly Canton. Last week an international consortium including the UK construction firm Costain won the dollars 1.2bn contract to prepare the site at Chek Lap Kok.

But two other new, international airports have joined the race to end Hong Kong's virtual monopoly over passenger and cargo flights to the region. And by the time the Chinese take over the running of Hong Kong in 1997 both are likely to be in operation.

One of the new airports is based within the rapidly growing special economic region that the Chinese have created at Shenzhen next to Hong Kong.

But the leader in the race is the tiny Portuguese colony of Macau, just 40 miles from Hong Kong. After centuries of virtual isolation, Macau - which makes its living from gambling - is building a pounds 465m international airport on a vast tract of reclaimed land adjoining the island of Taipa, in the middle of the Pearl River delta.

The mainland Chinese are enthusiastic supporters of the project - and have joined the consortium of investors who are financing the new airport and who will run it for a minimum of 25 years. This meeting of communist cash and capitalist realities is made even more remarkable by the fact that Macau's wealthy casino owners have also been pouring money into the project.

Macau airport is on schedule for a 1995 opening. It expects to handle 2.25 million passengers in its first full year of operation, rising to eight million within 15 years.

For a trio of islands with a population of less than 500,000, these are extraordinary figures. But the airport director, Jorge Ferreira Guimaraes, says: 'The market is there, the investors are there - and traffic forecasts make the project a viable one.'

Mr Guimaraes believes that increasing operating costs at Kai Tak, coupled with a soaring demand for landing and take-off slots that even the projected Chek Lap Kok airport may not be able to meet, make the Macau development a natural one. He also points to a probable heavy increase in intra-Chinese travel, and in cargo flights, as Chinese plans for the region become reality.

And he dismisses fears that the proliferation of airports will lead to air traffic control problems and turn the special economic zones into danger zones. 'We will be in the same position as Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton,' he says. 'They don't have problems, so why should we?'

Macau - too tiny to be self-supporting - has enjoyed a specially close relationship with China since 1987, when Portugal and the Chinese signed a Joint Declaration agreeing that Macau would be returned to China in 1999, two years after Hong Kong. The agreement, which will make Macau a special economic region of China but with considerable autonomy, created a mood of confidence that has already led to heavy mainland Chinese investment in Macau's tourism infrastructure. About 1,000 mainland Chinese are helping to build the airport, and this will rise to 1,500 as the work speeds up.

With air traffic in the Asia-Pacific region rising at 9 per cent a year, compared with 6 per cent in Europe, the West's airlines have taken a keen interest in the Macau project and are scrambling to get in on the act.

'We have had an approach from Virgin,' says Mr Guimaraes, 'and the American airline, United, has already said that it is interested in flying to Macau. Five other major European airlines are also interested.'

To stop all the business from going overseas, Macau's next step is likely to be the formation of its own international airline: and plans for Air Macau are thought to be well advanced. The Chinese, it seems, may be willing to put money into that, too.

Mr Guimaraes is not surprised. 'The new airport makes sense because it will enable us to maintain our trading links with China - and because it will ensure our future.'

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £280 - £320 p/d - 6 months

£280 - £320 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

Senior BA - Insurance **URGENT**

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

Training Coordinator / Resource Planner - City, London

£35000 - £38000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Training Coordinator / Pl...

Data Governance Manager (Solvency II) – Contract – Up to £450 daily rate, 6 month (may go Permanent)

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently looking...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week