5bn baht airport expansion approved

MAI KHAO: Airports of Thailand (AOT) is set to inject 5 billion baht into the expansion of Phuket International Airport (PIA) to bring its capacity up to 11.5 million passengers by the year 2016 – an increase of 77% over current capacity.

The announcement was made on May 23 by Deputy Transport Minister Songsak Thongsri, who joined Phuket Vice-Governor Worapoj Rathasima, PIA Director Wicha Nernlop, and other officials from AOT and PIA in a meeting and inspection tour of the airport.

In 2007, PIA had a total of 38,368 flights, a 32.4% rise from the year 2006, with 5.47 million passengers using the airport, a 22.6% increase over the previous year. The sharp rise is attributed to the growing popularity of low-cost carriers.

This year, the AOT expects the airport to accommodate 41,000 flights and about 6 million passengers.

Following the 516-million-baht expansion of the international terminal completed last year, the airport can now handle up to 6.5 million passengers per year. The 5-billion-baht funding will cover the development plan for fiscal years 2009-2011, said K. Songsak.

Beyond that, AOT will need to provide more funding in order for the airport to be able to welcome 15 million visitors by 2020, he said.

The 2009-2011 budget will cover the construction of more taxiways and 11 parking bays for aircraft, a new international passenger terminal, conversion of the existing international terminal into a domestic terminal, a new cargo building, new roads and improved transport systems, a parking garage for the international terminal, improvements in car parking areas, as well as a new airport office and airline offices.

However, the two-year plan does not address the airport’s main limiting factor: that its single 3,000-meter runway can only accommodate 20 flights per hour and is too short to allow for safe takeoff of fully-laden jumbo jets or the mammoth Airbus 380.

Given this restraint, AOT is intending to propose to the Transport Ministry that Krabi International Airport be designated as a relief airport for PIA when traffic exceeds capacity, K. Songsak said.

Apart from visiting the airport, the Deputy Transport Minister on May 25 went to visit the intended site of the island’s second bus station on Thepkrasattri Rd, near Super Cheap in Koh Kaew.

Construction has been delayed because none of the six construction firms who took out plans for the work tendered a bid, which they say underestimates the actual cost of materials.

K. Songsak advised local officials to review the plan and adjust the bid specifications to bring them in line with rising market prices.

Phuket News
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