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Compaction cracks raise runway alarm

ENGINEERS WORKING for Airport Authority Hong Kong claim reports on cracks in the new airport runway have been blown out of all proportion.

Recent news in Hong Kong's press suggested the main south runway was cracking up and that Chek Lap Kok, which is constructed on a huge artificial island, was sinking.

However according to AA engineers, cracks in the asphalt are not due to settlement of the platform, but result from poorly compacted backfill. They occur in two specific areas, the most significant being around one of the two cut and cover tunnels that crosses the southern runway, where cracks have resulted from a 50mm dip in the runway over a 50m section. Additionally there is cracking above ducting installed in the Runway Extension Safety Area at the far end of the runway.

'According to AA project director Douglas Oakervee, 'some minor cracks have occurred, but to suggest they are a serious engineering problem or will delay airport opening is completely incorrect. 'Hairline cracks were identified some months ago by AA during regular quality control checks.'

According to an industry source 'it is a question of compaction quality control, which introduces a number of issues now being addressed. However technically the runway is completely functional.'

Regular plane landings are taking place on the runway during final commissioning in the lead up to scheduled opening on 6 July. Repairs will be carried out during windows in this programme by the end of the month.

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