U-tapao expansion likely delayed

U-tapao expansion likely delayed

Airport staff work at U-Tapao airport in Rayong. (File photo)
Airport staff work at U-Tapao airport in Rayong. (File photo)

U-tapao airport expects a delay to the first phase of its expansion plans as some conditions have not been approved by authorities, with the carrying capacity reduced to less than 12 million passengers in the initial stages, says U-Tapao International Aviation Company (UTA).

Anawat Leelawatwatana, senior vice-president for finance and accounting at Bangkok Airways and a representative for UTA, said the date for area delivery of construction was supposed to be January 2023, but three major criterion upon issuance of the notice to proceed letter have not been finalised by the government.

These criterion comprise the auction for a second runway, the environmental health impact assessment, which must be approved by the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), and the operational schedule for the high-speed railway meant to connect to the airport.

Conditions were settled for sharing the first runway between UTA and the Royal Thai Navy, as well as the high-speed railway station's location at the airport, said Mr Anawat.

He said he hopes with a new secretary of the EEC appointed, progress will accelerate, though construction might not start until mid-year.

Mr Anawat said the company expects a lower projection for passengers, less than 12 million in the first phase, largely attributed to slow aviation traffic globally following the pandemic and labour shortages in the hospitality sector.

He said UTA would like to propose an option of capacity of 8 million, downsizing the terminal space by 30-50% and making investment more worthwhile. This proposal would require the agreement of the EEC.

Meanwhile, the conditions for starting construction -- when the number of passengers reaches 80% of airport capacity in each phase -- will remain, with a maximum carrying capacity of 60 million, said Mr Anawat.

The project is a joint venture between the BBS consortium, which includes Bangkok Airways, and the EEC. Under a 50-year concession, the new airport is set to accommodate 60 million passengers per year after six phases are completed.

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