Thu, Aug 21, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Sungshan airport possible for direct flights: Cabinet

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

In the face of a strenuous campaign by Taipei City to turn the Sungshan domestic airport into a designated terminal for direct air links to China, the Executive Yuan said yesterday that it does not rule out the possibility of doing just that.

"Direct transportation across the Taiwan Strait has to be built under the framework of peace and stability and to proceed in a gradual, orderly and practical manner," Cabinet Secretary-General Liu Shih-fang (劉世芳) quoted Premier Yu Shyi-kun as saying.

The government also has to take into consideration the impact that such direct links would have on the nation's economy, society, political climate and national security, Yu said.

Yu made the remarks in response to a request by Taipei Deputy Secretary-General Liu Pao-kuei (劉寶貴), who presented statistics to Yu yesterday morning during the weekly closed-door Cabinet meeting. Liu hoped to convince Yu to take the city's proposal into consideration.

According to the government's assessment report on the impact of direct cross-strait transportation links made public by the Cabinet's Mainland Affairs Council last Friday, CKS International Airport and Kaohsiung International Airport are to be designated for the direct cross-strait flights.

There would be no direct, point-to-point cross-strait flights because of security concerns.

Aircraft flying between Taiwan and China would still have to detour through the airspace of a third territory before arriving at their destinations.

Since it was Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) election promise last year to turn the city's Sungshan Airport into a facility for direct cross-strait transportation, the city has vowed to continue fighting for the airport.

Liu Pao-kuei later told reporters that the city's feasibility study report indicated that the market demand is there and that the airport can provide such services.

"We're not against making CKS International Airport and Kaohsiung International Airport the terminals for direct cross-strait flights," Liu Pao-kuei said.

"We're just asking the government to include us in the scheme; and we don't think the national security excuse makes sense because any direct flight across the Taiwan Strait concerns national security," Liu Pao-kuei said.

According to Liu Pao-kuei, about 900,000 city residents annually need to go to China. In other words, about 15 flights a day, or 5,625 flights a year, are needed to satisfy their needs, she said.

"Looking at a bigger picture, about 20 direct flights a day, or 143 flights a week and 7,438 flights a year, are needed for the 1.19 million people residing in the Greater Taipei Area," Liu Pao-kuei said.

As far as the capacity is concerned, the Sungshan Airport can offer 157 more flights a day, or 1,097 flights a week and 57,044 flights a year, as only 74 percent of runway capacity is currently used, Liu Pao-kuei said.

"The daily additional capacity is expected to increase to 252 flights a day, or 1,766 flights a week and 91,832 flights a year, as the north-south high-speed railway is completed in 2005," she said.

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