Work is well in progress on the expansion of airports in Madinah and Jeddah to cater to the surging numbers of pilgrims to Saudi Arabia. The projects are part of an ambitious plan that entails boosting the aviation infrastructure of the entire kingdom.
AS PART of Saudi Arabia’s ambitious plans to boost its aviation infrastructure, work is progressing at a fast pace on the new Prince Mohammed Bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah, with the first phase expected to be complete in the first quarter of 2015.
Under the kingdom’s estimated $53-billion programme to expand its airports, work is also well under way on a SR27-billion ($7.19 billion) expansion of King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA) in Jeddah, which will make it one of the largest aviation hubs in the world (see Gulf Construction, May 2014), and on the King Khalid International Airport (KKIA), in Riyadh, as well as a number of domestic airport projects.
The Prince Mohammed Bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah is being expanded to accommodate nearly eight million passengers annually once the first phase is operational, with subsequent phases designed to increase capacity to 12 million passengers a year and eventually 27 million people. Phase One work includes the construction of a second terminal, a new passengers’ lounge, a new commercial area and expansion of the existing second runway.
According to the airport’s general director Muhammad Al Fadel, 83 per cent of the construction work has so far been completed.
The project is the first of its kind in Saudi Arabia to be developed under a build-operate-transfer (BOT) contract signed in October 2011. Under the deal, the Taibah International consortium, comprising TAV of Turkey along with the local Al Rajhi Holding and Saudi Oger will develop and operate the airport, which is ranked the fourth largest Saudi airport in terms of passenger capacity and air traffic.
Madinah is the second most important holy city for Muslims after Makkah, and receives an estimated 11 million visitors per year. Aviation traffic is slated to increase by 27 per cent with the new expansion.
Taibah International was selected among eight bidding consortia following a careful evaluation process. According to a spokesman for the General Civil Aviation Authority of Saudi Arabia, Taibah International, which started work on the airport in June 2012, was chosen not only for the construction of the airport but also to improve services and attract more air and passenger traffic.
While the consortium will operate the airport for a period of 25 years, certain services such as security, immigration and customs services will remain exclusively under the government’s purview.
The project aims to create a hub for international pilgrims and will increase the airport’s capacity to accommodate the anticipated air traffic over the next five to 25 years. It is also designed to improve the quality of operation and services in line with the global best practices by benefiting from the efficiencies of the private sector. It will also transfer the burden of maintenance, operation and employment to the private sector thus saving the government the associated costs while allowing it to gain revenues.
On completion of Phase One, the airport’s capacity will increase to eight million passengers annually and up to 12 million passengers in the second phase.
Phase One, being implemented over an area of more than four million sq m, includes the construction of an arrivals and departure terminal covering a total area of 138,000 sq m. The terminal will include 16 gates connected to 32 air bridges. There will also be 64 check-in counters and 25 self-service counters as well as 12 additional counters during the Haj season; 10 luggage conveyor belts in the arrival halls; and six waiting halls covering a total area of 10,500 sq m for pilgrims.
Other features of Phase One includes utilities, commercial as well as supporting facilities; a parking lot with a capacity to accommodate 1,000 vehicles in addition to 300 slots allocated for car rental companies; and a mosque and open plaza spanning 3,920 sq m.
Meanwhile, the 30-year-old King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh is in the midst of a massive expansion, which is implemented in two phases, to meet the increasing demand on its facilities.
In the first phase, which is planned to be completed in 2017, Gaca aims to keep pace with the growing air traffic volume while meeting the needs of today’s traveller, including those with special needs.
“This phase will raise the airport’s capacity to 35.5 million passengers a year – tripling the current capacity and doubling the current air traffic. The total number of gates will be raised to 46 gates compared to 24 currently,” says the Gaca spokesman.
A new 540,000-sq-m concourse to accommodate 23 to 46 additional aircraft – depending to the type – is being implemented at the moment. The design, construction and installation of a modern system for refuelling aircraft is also under way.
This apart, Gaca has also given the go-ahead for Terminal Five with a capacity of 12 million passengers a year, under a design, construction and installation contract awarded to TAV in alliance with Al Arrab Contracting Company of Saudi Arabia. The new terminal will be constructed over an area of 100,000 sq m and will be dedicated to domestic flights. It will include eight double gates linked to 16 aircraft (medium size).
The first phase of the expansion project also includes expanding the road network that links the airport with the capital and construction of an additional multi-storey car-park with a capacity of 3,000 cars, says the spokesman.
The contract is due for completion in 22 months, following which air traffic will be transferred to the new Terminal Five from Terminal Three, which will be redeveloped along with Terminal Four.
The development and expansion of Terminals Three and Four will increase their capacity to 17.5 million passengers a year. They will have 22 gates serving 44 medium-size aircraft.
Phase One also involves the development of the airport’s runways, taxiways, and aircraft hangars as well as the development of stations, networks, utilities and public roads.
Meanwhile, Phase Two of the project is aimed at raising the airport’s capacity to 47.5 million passengers a year, in line with the future volume of air traffic. The most prominent features of this phase include the development of Terminals One and Two to accommodate 17.5 million passengers as well as the concourse area.
In addition to these two major airport developments, Gaca is also planning to expand five of its existing domestic airports in Jazan, Abha, Qassim, Arar and Baha. Work on the Jazan Airport is due to start soon, to be followed by work on Arar and Al Jouf airports and then Qassim and Abha airports by the end of the year.
Work on the expansion and renovation of Arar airport, close to the Iraqi border in Northern Border region, is expected to start next month (August) for completion in 2016. The project aims at enabling Arar airport to handle 418,000 passengers.
Meanwhile, bids for the construction of phases One and Two of the Abha airport are currently under evaluation. The project involves the expansion of the airport to reach a capacity of five million passengers per year, boosting its built-up area to 78,000 sq m from the current 9,400 sq m.
Bids have also been submitted for the expansion of Prince Nayef Bin Abdulaziz Airport in Buraidah, Qassim, to enable the facility to handle 2.45 million passengers per year.
Among other developments, tenders are expected to be issued shortly for the expansion of Al Baha Airport, which will increase its area from 2,200 sq m to 3,104 sq m and include a 300-sq-m terminal.