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Land for Singapore's airport to double size

Publication Date : 18-07-2012

 

Singapore has earmarked 1,000ha of land for the expansion of Changi Airport - a move which will almost double the airport's size in the coming decades.

The planned expansion comes as rival airports in China, India and the Middle East formulate bold expansion plans to meet the growing demand for air travel.

Changi now occupies 1,350ha of land. The extra space for the future, about the size of Toa Payoh, is located where the biennial Singapore Airshow is held.

The plot is now separated from the existing airport by Changi Coast Road and already has a runway used for military purposes.

Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo, who helms a 10-member multi-agency committee studying Changi's future needs, revealed the plans in a wide-ranging interview on Monday.

Among other areas, the committee is looking at when new terminals will be required and how they will be connected to the existing airport.

To prepare for the final report to be out by the year end, the team recently visited several airports in the region, including those in Hong Kong, Incheon in South Korea and the Middle East.

Teo said the study trips gave a good sense of the developments being planned by other airports, and also reaffirmed the belief that growth in aviation - especially in this part of the world - will sustain itself over a fairly long while.

She said: "As a result of this, we saw that many of these airports have very bold, ambitious plans." Hong Kong for example, has set in motion plans for a third runway; Incheon, which has three, is thinking of two more.

A key priority for the Changi committee is to decide when the airport, which now uses two runways, will need a third, Teo said.

Fuelled mainly by low-cost carriers, the number of flights at Changi has grown significantly in the last few years, outpacing the percentage increase in passenger traffic.

Last year, the number of aircraft movements rose 14.5 per cent over that in 2010. This triggered flight delays, which sparked the argument for a third runway.

But even as Teo's panel considers when this can be developed, steps have been taken to use the two existing runways more efficiently.

These include reducing the distance between two aircraft and scheduling maintenance work in off- peak periods.

Experts have pointed to Heathrow - which also has two runways - to underscore Changi's relatively inefficient use of its runways: The London airport pulled off 476,197 take-offs and landings last year; Changi had 302,000.

The capacity of airport terminals to handle passengers is a less pressing issue, but the committee will still decide when and how many new terminals will be needed, said Teo.

"If you have capacity, you have the opportunity to capture future growth. If you don't, then there is really no opportunity to do so."

If Changi does not build enough capacity in time, it will lose out to other airports, she said, identifying this as Changi's key challenge.

Singapore's airport can now handle more than 70 million passengers a year; by 2017, when Terminal 4 is ready, the figure will be 85 million. Terminal 4 will replace the Budget Terminal, to be demolished in September.

Beyond that, Teo said, the committee is eyeing the possibility not just of a Terminal 5, but even a Terminal 6, if needed.

But even as the committee looks to Changi's future, the airport also has to innovate.

She cited the example of Incheon airport, which is 70km from Seoul. A mini city catering to travellers has sprung up around it.

Teo said: "So it is not just a matter of building pure capacity, but also of how the airport can enhance the value it brings to the local economy - creating jobs and building opportunities for industry and commerce to take off."

She added that as Changi Airport readied itself for the lap ahead, one thing was clear: "Changi is in a position of strength, and with the right moves, we have the opportunity to keep it flying high."

 

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