Changi unveils plans for new mega T5

SINGAPORE - AMBITIOUS plans have been unveiled for Changi's mega new air terminal to cater for up to 50 million passengers a year, as Singapore moves decisively to seal the airport's premier hub status.

Terminal 5, which is slated for completion around 2025, will be bigger than the current Terminals 2 and 3 put together. It will take the form of either a huge single terminal building, or a smaller facility linked to a satellite terminal via an underground rail link.

T5 will be located at Changi East, in an area now separated from the current terminals by Changi Coast Road. It will be linked to the rest of the airport and possibly house its own MRT station in future.

When completed, the giant addition will boost Changi Airport's maximum capacity to 135 million passengers a year, rivalling the busiest airports today.

This includes London's Heathrow, which handles about 70 million passengers a year.

Announcing the latest plans at a media briefing on Friday, Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo, who leads a 10-member multi-agency committee looking into Changi's expansion, said the future is not just about growing in size. "We want to make it a better air hub," she said.

"The more cities that we are linked to, the more frequent the flights and the more efficient the transfers, then the greater the convenience that we can offer to passengers and the better we are as an air hub."

Industry watchers have said that this expansion is essential because many rival air hubs, including those in Asia, are planning to boost capacity in the coming years. So Changi must move quickly to capture a share of Asia's growing traffic and enhance capacity so that it can "build on its current leadership position", said Mrs Teo.

This is why the development at Changi East will include building a third runway to handle more flights. This runway will be operational around 2020, even before T5 opens.

New aircraft maintenance and repair facilities, as well as hotels and offices, will also be built at the site. This makes the project the biggest airport works since the move from Paya Lebar Airport to Changi in 1981, and also one of the most challenging, said Mrs Teo.

To link the current airport and future terminal, Changi Coast Road will need to be diverted. More than 40km of taxiways, about the length of the Pan Island Expressway from Tuas to Tampines, will also be built to connect the airport's two existing runways to a third runway.

A 60m-wide canal will also need to be diverted. To improve access to and from T5, the Land Transport Authority will boost bus links and study various rail options, including extending the current MRT line from T2 to the new T5. The future Eastern Region Line could also be connected to the new terminal, LTA said.

Airlines and other industry players are excited about the new developments.

Singapore Airlines, which currently operates out of T2 and T3, has already "expressed preliminary interest" in moving to T5, spokesman Nicholas Ionides said.

But there are concerns that Changi could face terminal and runway constraints that will lead to congestion and delays for travellers before the expansion works are completed.

From 66 million now, the airport is expected to grow its capacity steadily in the coming years. It will be able to handle 85 million passengers by 2018 when the future T4 is ready and T1 expanded.

Mr Yap Ong Heng, directorgeneral of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, said there are plans in place to "stretch" the current two runways. "It will be busier but it need not get worse," said Mr Lee Seow Hiang, chief executive officer of Changi Airport Group.

"That's the reality, we can't deny it. But we think we have the ability to still provide a service that people talk about."

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