Kathmandu Airport is reviewing its master plan as final expansion cost expected to touch $1 billion

KATHMANDU (The Kathmandu Post/ANN) - Airport authorities say its cost-effective to build a new domestic terminal at the eastern side of the runway.

Nepal’s civil aviation body has decided to review the blueprint for the final expansion of Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport as its cost is estimated to hit the billion dollar mark and will take years to complete the project.

Originally, the government had planned to implement the final expansion of the airport at a cost of $600 million that would have started in 2019. But the project did not move forward as the existing first phase upgradation project has yet to be completed.

As per the existing master plan of the Tribhuvan International Airport project, a new international terminal will be erected where a golf course currently stands. The present international terminal will be used to handle domestic flights.

The hangars of Nepal Airlines Corporation and Nepal Army and the barracks of Nepal Army will be relocated as per the master plan.

Likewise, a parallel taxiway will be constructed on either side of the runway. The master plan envisages completing the final phase of the project by 2028.

“Our internal review showed that relocating Nepal Army barracks alone would cost Rs20 billion,” said Rajan Pokhrel, director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal.

“We have estimated that the final expansion of the Kathmandu’s airport may cost $1 billion. It’s not a wise move to pour such a big amount into this airport, which cannot be expanded due to geographical constraints.”

According to Pokhrel, it would be far cheaper to build a second domestic terminal or Terminal 2 at the eastern side of the runway, which is close to Buddha Air’s hanger. “We have already planned to construct at least 22 domestic parking bays there.”

The Terminal 2 in Kadaghari or Pepsi-Cola side will be connected by roads from three sides—from Thimi, Bhaktapur; Boudha and Judibutti, Koteshwor.

Pokhrel said that more than 20 international parking bays will be constructed at the northern side of the runway, or Pashupatinath side, after filling the ravine. Nepal Oil Corporation will also set up its aviation fuel plant at this site.

“We have requested the Asian Development Bank to study whether it is feasible to construct Terminal 2 at the eastern side of the runway,” Pokhrel said, adding that based on the report, the government will decide whether the Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport master plan to begin final phase expansion should be revised or not.

The soil filling works in the northern side of the runway is part of the $92-million airport improvement project, which has been delayed after the Spanish contractor was fired for non-performance in December 2016.

The Asian Development Bank is currently preparing the project report and the Manila-based multilateral funding agency said it could release around $200 million for the expansion of the airport, which is the continuation of the first phase as well.

A source from the Asian Development Bank who wished to remain anonymous told the Post that the bank’s 2020’s airport expansion programmes include injecting additional $200 million, while the government will inject $50 million in the project.

“The bank’s consultant has been studying the area of funding that particularly will be on improving the airside capacity.”

The completion date for the first phase of the Tribhuvan International Airport improvement project has been pushed back to 2022 due to the tardiness of the previous contractor. It was originally scheduled to be finished by March 2016.

The $92-million project, jointly funded by the government ($12 million) and the Asian Development Bank ($80 million in loan and grant), and implemented on December 6, 2010, is one of the projects of the Asian Development Bank having a longest duration of contract.

The bank has closed its funding for the first phase after the project crossed a 10 year period and has been studying for a fresh funding modality for 2020, according to officials at the civil aviation body.

According to figures released by the airport, 4.34 million international passengers travelled through the airport last year. That marked an 11.70 percent increase over 2017. The figure shows that Tribhuvan International Airport handled 11,898 international travelers daily in 2018.

The Asian Development Bank has forecast that international passenger movement at Tribhuvan International Airport will swell to 7.29 million in 2028. By 2035, international passenger movement is expected to reach 9.92 million.

Similarly, domestic airlines flew 2.84 million passengers in 2018, up 19.22 percent from the 2017 figure. The bank has forecast that domestic passengers will increase to 3.8 million by 2035.