The Transport Ministry is expected to sign a cooperation agreement with the Royal Thai Navy later this month to jointly develop the navy's U-Tapao airport in Rayong province for commercial use.
Transport Minister Prajin Juntong said two panels, chaired by transport permanent secretary Soithip Traisuth, will be set up to oversee the development process as soon as the memorandum of cooperation (MoC) is signed.
One of the working committees will be in charge of developing infrastructure and construction of road and rail links to U-Tapao airport. The other will be responsible for business planning for commercial use of the airport, which will be reviewed by the navy, ACM Prajin said.
According to the transport minister, the development process will be divided into three phases.
The first phase, slated to run from 2015-2017, will focus on increasing the capacity of a new terminal to accommodate up to three million passengers per year. The existing terminal can handle up to 800,000 passengers a year.
During these two years, the Department of Highways will speed up construction and expansion of routes to the airport.
A section of Highway 331, linking Chachoengsao's Phanom Sarakham district to Chon Buri's Sattahip district, will be expanded into four lanes, and a motorway connecting Pattaya with Rayong's Map Ta Phut will be built.
The second phase, slated to last from 2018-2020, concerns development of infrastructure to accommodate up to five million passengers per year. In its early stages, development will be focused on aviation, he said.
The third phase, which starts from 2020 onwards, involves construction of a second runway with an estimated length of 2,700 metres and a study into development of facilities necessary to accommodate growth, he said.
ACM Prajin said estimated budgets for the project will be worked out by the two panels, and are expected to be ready in four to six months before the entire scheme is submitted to the cabinet for consideration.
"Funding sources come from the Transport Ministry and the navy. The cost of transport networks outside the airport will be shouldered by the ministry and those on airport premises by the navy," he said.
The minister said the navy has insisted on maintaining management of U-tapao airport, including air traffic control. The Airports of Thailand Plc may be asked to help with ground services later if the number of passengers increases.