• Proposed rehabilitation of battered runway at Nepal’s only international airport is good news

Feb 6, 2018-

Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) has gained global notoriety for being one of the worst airports in the world. TIA, Nepal’s sole international airport, has just one 3,050 metre runway. For the past few years, it has been hamstrung by countless administrative issues and infrastructural bottlenecks.

The levels of comfort, cleanliness and customer services at TIA are decidedly subpar. International airline operators say Kathmandu airport’s ground-handling service has to be among worst, if not the worst, in the world and, ironically, among the most expensive too. Flight delays as well as queues of aircraft circling the skies awaiting landing permission have been common. TIA has reached a saturation point because it is simply not equipped to deal with the growth of airlines—the international terminal which was designed to process 1,340 passengers an hour has been handling twice that number. That the airport needs a complete overhaul is obvious.

So it is a great relief that the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan) has finally earmarked $9.73 million to implement the much-delayed $28 million runway rehabilitation project.

The recurrence of cracks on the runway began to affect smooth operations of aircraft in 2011 and led to TIA forbidding aircraft weighing more than 196 tonnes to land. The Caan also conducted a study in 2014 which conclusively stated that the runway was not strong enough to handle wide-body jets due to its ageing asphalt foundation.

Yet despite the obvious need for rehabilitation, the project to renovate the runway has been bogged down since March last year. The dispute that arose after Tourism Minister Jitendra Narayan Dev tried to remove Caan chief Sanjiv Gautam from his post was just another roadblock in the sad saga. But now, it seems that progress is finally being made on the plan to rehabilitate the battered runway.

The budget to renovate the runway has been allocated under the Air Transport Capacity Enhancement Project this fiscal year. Last march, the project prequalified four firms—China National Aero Technology International Engineering Corporation, China Harbor Engineering, Beijing Changdao Municipal Engineering Group and Nepali-Chinese HV consisting of China Railway No 5 Engineering Group and Swachchhanda Nirman Sewa. Now, the Caan board has allowed the project to invite the prequalified bidders to submit financial proposals as well.

Once chosen, the contractor will be given a year to make preparations, and will need to put all logistics in place before it is allowed on the runway. They will also have to have twice the amount of materials and equipment required for renovation. On-ground work has been targeted to begin after monsoon in 2018.

This is welcome news. Now, the project needs urgent and efficient implementation so the state of TIA is improved, and air travel in the country can be both pleasant and safe.  

Published: 06-02-2018 07:55

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