Sunday, 30 September 2012
In a such a short time
Normally a big project would take years if not, decades to build like cruise ships, dams, skyscrapers, bridges and tunnels. Imagine building a small island, an airport, miles of highway, railway lines and a large suspension bridge in seven years? This happened in Hong Kong and the reason for seven years was because Hong Kong was to be handed over back to China from the British. The engineers feared the if not completed by then, the Chinese might pull the plug.
Hong Kong needed a new airport as Kai Tak was overwhelmed by huge number of passengers and cargo with only one runway. Due to the overwhelming numbers, if incoming cargo is delayed, then millions of dollars is at stake. Expansion was impossible as Kai Tak was surrounded by buildings and skyscrapers. When pilots land, they often flew low around buildings which was considered dangerous for people living in apartments around the airport.
The only option left was to build a new airport. There was too few land to build and looked at Chek Lap Kok and Lam Chau Islands. Both islands were mountainous and work began on clearing the mountains so both islands were level. The rubble was not wasted but used to connect both islands. Ships were used to vacuum the sea bed to expose the flat bedrock before adding the rubble on top. Because of the shortage of time, The terminals had identical rooves with 126 of them mass produced on sight. A cargo terminal was built with state of the art system where cargo can be transferred through a conveyor belt and if lifted through a high levels of shelves for storage.
Infrastructure had to built to and from the airport. Hong Kong already had two tunnels built decades ago. Due to constant heavy traffic, a new six lane tunnel had to be built. Bridges in the city had to be built due to heavy traffic. It was only built at night and on top of existing roads. Through the Ma Wan channel, a tunnel was going to be built but was too dangerous to build due to theavy traffic of container ships. The Tsing Ma Bridge (long suspension) was built. It was also tall enough for any ship to pass under. At 1733 metres long, engineers found that a deadly typhoon can knock it down so the bridge was made heavier. A tunnel was added inside along with a railway line and it became a double decker bridge. High speed railway lines were built along the highways for the millions of people using rail transport each day.
The fear of not completing on time was showing and negotiations were being made with the Chinese. When Hong Kong was handed back to China, the terminal was still not completed and the fear of the Chinese pulling the plug did not occurred. The Chinese gave Hong Kong a one year extension to complete the airport construction which they have successfully done.
Hong Kong Airport opened in 1998 with the historic closure of Kai Tak. The runway flights were turned off after the final takeoff made by Cathay Pacific and the quote "Goodbye Kai Tak, and thank you" before turning off the runway lights. All the equipment was moved to the new airport in seven hours. Cathay Pacific also made the first landing on the new airport. Hong Kong Airport's location away from the city centre would be alot safer instead of having planes constantly flying low above apartments. To be able to build big infrastructures and a big airport in seven years is an incredible achievement for the tiny land of Hong Kong.