An airport on the move

The calm before the storm. SP Steve Wordsworth and CIP Ko Kim-fung getting ready for the Herculean task of moving Kai Tak to Chek Lap Kok. Some 10,000 vehicles, 70 barges of equipment and 30 aircraft (including the leviathan Main Deck Loader behind them) will be moved by land, sea and air.

"IT'S a unique challenge and experience. After all, how many times during your life do you get to move a major international airport and all its associated kit?" says Superintendent Steve Wordsworth of Operations Wing, who for the last 18 months has been busy co-ordinating police involvement in the relocation of Hong Kong's Airport to Chek Lap Kok.

In a phased move by land, sea and air some 10,000 vehicles, 70 barges of equipment and 30 aircraft have to be moved in a complex operation that must take account of the weather and the operational needs of both airports. Duties from Kowloon East, Kowloon West, NT South and the Force Escort Group are all playing a role.

Mr Wordsworth has been involved in planning every aspect of the relocation. Meetings with the Airport Authority, Civil Aviation Department, Marine Department, Transport Department, Highways and over 70 business partners have been necessary to guarantee the operation goes as smoothly as possible.

Phase 1 of the operation began on 6 May with mainly road moves of non-essential items from Kai Tak to Chek Lap Kok.

Phase 2 starts on 4 June when the volume of road traffic increases and the sea moves start.

SP Wordsworth commented: "Both these phases are likely to present few difficulties. The hard works starts on 22 June when Phase 3 kicks off."

During this period convoys and significant numbers of large, out-of-gauge, vehicles will start moving to CLK under police escort - the Force Escort Group. Traffic management measures are also being implemented to help these large loads move safely and with minimum inconvenience to other road users. Special arrangements are also in place to handle movements over the Tsing Ma Bridge.

The most important part of the operation starts at about 5:30pm on 5 July - on the day when Kai Tak Airport shuts down. Phase 4 of the operation "The Night Move" is time critical and as Mr Wordsworth points out: "We have over 1,200 vehicles to move, many are large and slow and therefore require escorts - other vehicles need to be at CLK before it can open. We have the world watching and only one chance to get this right".

Phase 4 also involves a traffic management plan for Kai Tak to ensure the airport can continue to operate while the relocation proceeds.

Most of the relocation activity will take place on the eastern side of Kai Tak, while the public will still be able to access the Airport in the west. Some road closures in the Kai Tak area will be necessary.

"We encourage the public to stay away. Only those with legitimate business should go to Kai Tak on 5 July. I anticipate it will be somewhat hectic," said Mr Wordsworth. Kowloon East Region has contingencies ready to deal with crowds although it is hoped these will not be necessary."

From about 10pm on 5 July, the plan is to close Lung Cheung Road and Ching Cheung Road westbound from the Choi Hung interchange to all traffic except relocation vehicles and franchised buses. Regional traffic duties from Kowloon East, Kowloon West and New Territories South will be out holding the routes open to facilitate the move. The Lung Cheung/Ching Cheung corridor is designated the "Northern Route" of the operation. A fallback route, "The Southern Route" through the Yaumatei area is being held in reserve.

"During Phase 4 timing is critical, each individual vehicle has an allocated time slot to load, depart and arrive at CLK. We will all be working to ensure the plan is followed as closely a possible. But crucial to the success of the move is flexibility. Officers must be ready to respond to the various situations thrown up by this unprecedented operation with the aim of keeping the flow of vehicles to CLK moving," explained Mr Wordsworth.

The Airport Authority will be logging each vehicle move by computer in order that a real-time picture emerges on how the relocation is proceeding.

"It is crucial that we get the right message out to the public," Mr Wordsworth reiterates. "This is a working event and we asking Hong Kong people to help us by staying home on the night of 5 July (Sunday) in order that the roads are clear of traffic. It is particularly important that people avoid the Kai Tak area because traffic delays are likely. Travellers using the airport should factor this into their journey times."

On the sea, Marine Police will be escorting barges that are moving loads too large for the roads.

And the biggest concern?

"The weather!" exclaims SP Wordsworth. "A number three typhoon signal will halt the sea move. Strong winds on the Tsing Ma Bridge could prompt its closure. This is all factored into the plan."

While the Hong Kong Observatory predicts a 50 per cent chance of rain on Move Night, rain alone will not stop the move.

"A road trial has already taken place with the largest load and fortunately it rained. The trial confirmed our planning assumptions," Mr Wordsworth notes.

As the first commercial flights arrive at CLK on the morning of 6 July, Steve Wordsworth hopes to be in the CLK Command Post. "I expect we will all have a great sense of achievement. Although we still have a lot of work to do between now and 6 July."

Farewell Kai Tak

Estimated Time of Departure: 5 July 98. Regional
Commander Kowloon East John Yuen Ying-lam
and his deputies with senior officers of the Airport
Police District at Kai Tak. Some will be resuming
duties at the new airport at Chek Lap Kok, while
others will be re-posted around the territory

ALTHOUGH it was time for Hong Kong to get a new airport, many officers who served in Airport District will miss Kai Tak and look back on their experience with affection and nostalgia. It is a truly unique District facing many of the day-to-day policing problems experienced elsewhere but with an additional overriding responsibility for maintaining a high level of security and providing an immediate response to any terrorist incident or aircraft disaster.

The policing of Airport District is concerned solely with Hong Kong International Airport.

There is no resident population in the District although it has a daily workforce of about 26,381 permanent staff. In 1997, over 28 million passengers used Kai Tak airport - approximately 77,583 air travellers per day, together with large numbers of relatives and friends of departing/arriving passengers.

"July 5/6 is D-Day (the night/day of the move to Chek Lap Kok)," said District Staff Relations Officer, CIP Peter Wong, who has been at the Airport Police Station for almost seven years. "Although we look forward to working at CLK, I'm going to miss Kai Tak. I know the air side and the land side just like the back of my hand. I'll miss that. Also dealing with airline operators and the everyday policing of such a heavily used airport is a very unique experience."

Senior Inspector Bill Ng Chun-piu echoes Mr Wong's sentiments: "Every day the airport is a highly sophisticated operation - of which the police are one essential part. Mutual co-operation is fundamental. After serving in the Airport District for four years I have come to appreciate our relationship with the other government departments and airline companies. It's a very loyal, co-operative and friendly relationship which I'm sure will continue at Chek Lap Kok. But because of the nature of Kai Tak - its comparatively small size, location and history - its uniqueness will always be remembered."

This site is best viewed by 800x600 or higher screen resolution.
All Rights Reserved. Offbeat Copyright 1997