Thailand to go ahead with $2.4b airport expansion: Minister

Thailand to go ahead with $2.4b airport expansion: Minister
Thai Airways planes are seen at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport.

BANGKOK - Thailand's military government will go ahead with a 62 billion baht (S$2.4 billion) expansion plan at Bangkok's main Suvarnabhumi airport, the country's transport minister said on Saturday.

Thailand will also build a third runway worth 19 billion baht at the airport and plans to build another three provincial airports, Air Chief Marshal Prajin Juntong told reporters. "The second-phase expansion of Suvarnabhumi airport will have to be done quickly to meet increasing numbers of tourists,"he said.

A committee will be set up look into project details before presenting them to cabinet for approval, he added.

On Sept. 29, Airports of Thailand Pcl, the country's largest airport operator, said it planned to spend 54 billion baht on expanding capacity at the main airport, down from an earlier announced budget of 62 billion baht. The plan is subject to approval from the transport ministry.

After seizing power in May, the military junta has scrutinised state enterprises and large projects worth at least 1 billion baht to ensure transparency and to take control of state companies.

The airport operator said previously the expansion over the next five years would increase capacity at Bangkok's overcrowded airport to 80 million a year by 2017.

The US$4 billion Suvarnabhumi airport, which opened in 2006 on what was once flooded marshland known as "cobra swamp", has the capacity to serve about 45 million passengers a year, but actually handled around 50 million last year.

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