Thailand gives green light to $9bn airport expansion plan

The government of Thailand yesterday approved a $9bn plan by a consortium led by rail operator BTS Group to expand U-Tapao International Airport near Pattaya.

The deal, which will involve building a third terminal, as well as cargo and plane maintenance centres, is due to be signed on 19 June.

BTS Group runs Bangkok’s Skytrain and metro systems. The consortium also includes Bangkok Airways and Sino-Thai Engineering & Construction.

The expanded airport would be managed by Japan’s Narita International Airport Corporation.

U-Tapao is one of the projects being prioritised by Thailand as past of the Eastern Economic Corridor, a development zone running between Bangkok and Pattaya.

As well at the expanded airport, the corridor will have a $7.2bn, 220km rail link running between U-Tapao in the east and Don Muang in the west (see graphic below).

The Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC)

The work would be carried out as a public-private partnership contract.

Kanit Sangsubhan, the secretary-general of the Eastern Economic Corridor Office, said that freight forwarders DHL Worldwide Express and FedEx would be involved in running the air cargo business.

U-Tapao was completed in 1966 by the US air force, which used it to base B-52 bombers during the Vietnam War.

After the upgrade it is expected to have a passenger capacity of 60 million, putting it in the first rank of international airports.

Top image: The Thai resort city of Pattaya (FritzDaCat/CC BY 4.0)

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