Suvarnabhumi Airport will need to carry out the next phase of expansion as soon as the current upgrade works are completed or faces yet again the perennial problem of capacity lagging behind traffic demand.
“The airport’s phase 3 expansion will have to proceed immediately after the current phase 2 is finished over the next 5-6 years,” Somchai Sawasdeepon, the general manager of Suvarnabhumi airport, told the Bangkok Post.
He raised this awareness as Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT), the state-controlled operator of the country’s six main airports including Suvarnabhumi, is attempting to bring forward the completion date of Suvarnabhumi’s phase 2 expansion by one year to 2016 to cope with the rising traffic.
Suvarnabhumi has been plagued with congestion as governments and AoT did not heed to planners’ suggestions that the expansion should be carried out right after the airport was opened in September 2006.
As Southeast Asia’s busiest airport, Suvarnabhumi has been operating beyond its annual capacity of 45 million passengers for a few years and AoT foresees the passenger volumes of 52.2 million this year.
Suvarnabhumi is handling 830 flights a day, operated by 100 international carriers, with some 150,000 passengers passing through it each day.
Phase 3 would involve the construction of a second mid-field passenger terminal, the fourth runway and the expansion of the eastern wing of Suvarnabhumi’s main passenger terminal.
Works under phase 3 would render an incremental capacity of 13 million passengers a year, allowing Suvarnabhumi to cope with the demand until 2022, according to Mr Somchai.
Continued expansion of Bangkok’s airports are needed based on long-term projections of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and International Air Transport Association (IATA), he said.
Both organisations foresee passengers passing through Bangkok _ Suvarnabhumi and the old Don Mueang airport _ are expected to soar from 69.5 million in 2017, to 84.7 million in 2022 before reaching 102 million in 2027, an annual average growth rate of 3.4%.
AoT is working with EPM Consortium, its project management consultant for phase 2 expansion, to cut the development time to 58 months from 70 months, by trimming periods required for each work phase.
“It is a challenge to do so while ensuring the quality of works required, but that’s possible,” Mr Somchai said.
The long-delayed phase 2 project requires a capital outlay of 62.5 billion baht and will raise Suvarnabhumi’s passenger handling capacity by 33% to 60 million passengers a year.
AoT is also attempting to embark on the construction of the third runway, which was originally part of the phase 2 expansion. It was subsequently detached following a series of trouble which hit the current two runways including a subsidence of a section of the western runway on July 5.
AoT now expects the physical construction of the third runway, 4,000 metres in length, paved with 73-cm-thick bitumen, and runs in parallel to Kingkaew Road, would be up and running just about the same as time as the completion of phase 2.
The undertaking is estimated to cost up to 13 billion baht, 7.8 billion baht of which would go toward compensating some 4,000 households affected by the construction, while the building cost itself is around 3.6 billion baht.
The Suvarnabhumi chief conceded that the third runway may not provide much of the relief to Suvarnabhumi’s congestion, but will smooth traffic movements when the existing two runways go into maintenance.