AoT gives airport expansion okay
President defends north project from critics' barbs
Airports of Thailand's (AoT) board has officially given the green light to the controversial northern expansion plan of Suvarnabhumi airport and the 42-billion-baht project will be forwarded to the cabinet for approval, said AoT president Nitinai Sirismatthakarn.
Mr Nitinai announced on Wednesday that the board had decided to back the project and to submit it to the Transport Ministry, the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Council, and the cabinet for consideration.
He said AoT has conducted everything with transparency in proposing the expansion after taking into account input from all sides, including the stakeholders of Suvarnabhumi airport, passengers and international aviation organisations.
All parties agreed that the airport master plan can be modified and gave their endorsement to the project which would relieve congestion at the country's main airport.
The proposed northern expansion has drawn flak from experts who alleged it was poorly designed and would do little to alleviate overcapacity at Suvarnabhumi.
The experts insisted a new terminal should be built to the south of the airport instead of expanding the existing terminal, as stipulated by the master plan.
The northern zone where the expansion is earmarked is not suited to handle additional facilities, they added.
They reasoned that a southern terminal would provide more room to cope with growing passenger traffic over the long run and be more easily accessible.
However, Mr Nitinai, who has staunchly supported the expansion, said on Wednesdaythe project would be able to accommodate up to 40 million additional passengers a year.
Building the expansion is expected to take there to four years, and it will be equipped with 14 new aerobridges for aircraft serving long-haul flights.
Mr Nitinai added the project also includes two Automated People Mover (APM) systems.
The APM would provide convenience for people connecting from the main terminal to the north expansion and the City Garden building.
Responding to criticism, Mr Nitinai said the AoT has not ruled out building a southern terminal. In fact, he said, the south terminal has been incorporated into the airport expansion plan to be undertaken from 2025 to 2030.
The plan, which also involves constructing a fourth runway, would push the airport's handling capacity up to 150 million passengers per year and 120 flights an hour, according to the AoT president.