Second Hong Kong runway takes off

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The Independent Online
Britain and China will today sign a landmark agreement to build a second runway for Hong Kong's new airport, enlarging what is already the world's biggest single civil engineering project under construction.

It is expected that a key part of today's deal will involve an undertaking that Hong Kong's incoming Chinese administration will bear no responsibility for financing the cost of the second runway.

Nearly every big international airline preparing to use the new airport has warned that it would be a disaster if only one runway were operational. Nevertheless, the airport will open with just the one runway in late 1997 or early 1988 because Sino-British political wrangling over airport financing has hitherto made it impossible to reach agreement on building the airport to specifications originally envisaged.

There has been fierce international competition for a share of the airport building work, which is worth a total of some HK$60bn (pounds 5.1bn) cost of the runway and associated work will be over HK$4.6bn (pounds 393m).

Civil engineering and construction companies from all over the world have homed in on the project because it is seen to be open to genuine international competition. Most of the main components of the airport and associated road and rail connections are being built by consortia. The contract to build the first runway, for example, is a joint venture between Britain's Alfred McAlpine and a New Zealand and Hong Kong company.

Other big British names, including Trafalgar House, have also won airport contracts but the biggest winners have been Japanese companies.