On Wednesday, Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob brushed aside an anti-graft agency’s recommendation about the upgrade of Suvarnabhumi airport, saying the Airports of Thailand (AoT) was ready to proceed with expansion schemes, including the controversial North expansion project.
His remark came after the cabinet acknowledged a report by the National Anti Corruption Commission (NACC) recommending the expansion schemes for Suvarnabhumi airport should proceed in line with a cabinet resolution dating back to 2010.
Then, the cabinet endorsed the East Expansion, which according to the NACC, would accommodate the planned opening of the Midfield Satellite Concourse next year. In its report, the NACC also recommended the West Expansion should proceed simultaneously to enable the airport to cater for up to 75 million passengers per year.
Mr Chidchob said AoT had the resources to invest in expansion schemes costing 60 billion baht, which along with the Satellite 1 passenger terminal due to be completed next year, would increase the annual handling capacity of Suvarnabhumi airport to 120 million passengers.
The Satellite 1 passenger terminal will accommodate 15 million passengers annually while the expansion schemes will accommodate 20 million passengers each. This will boost the airport’s overall capacity to 120 million passengers.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Suvarnabhumi had become overloaded and its passenger numbers exceeded its annual capacity of 45 million.
However, the minister said AoT was waiting for opinions from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) before forwarding the information to the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC) to decide which expansion schemes should proceed.
“The cabinet didn’t instruct the ministry to follow the NACC’s recommendation and the ministry explained its plan of becoming the aviation gateway and servicing 200 million passengers per year”.
“The AoT was ready to invest in the three expansion schemes as well as the North Expansion,” he said.
A government spokesman said the NACC had recommended that Suvarnabhumi’s upgrade should comply with the NESDC’s suggestions that the East, West and South expansion schemes proceed before the North’s.
The NACC recommendation was made following AoT revised its master development plan and proposed that Suvarnabhumi include the North expansion so it could handle up to 150 million passengers a year.
That drew criticism from experts who alleged that the scheme had been poorly designed and would do little to alleviate Suvarnabhumi’s overcapacity.
They said a southern terminal would provide more room to cope with growing passenger traffic over the long run and be more easily accessible.