THE GOVERNMENT yesterday gave a clear signal of its commitment to the expansion of U-Tapao Rayong Pattaya International Airport by announcing it will spend Bt760 million on feasibility studies for the massive project that has been elevated to a key element of the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC).
The feasibility studies will cover the construction of a second passenger terminal, a second runway with high-speed capability, and an aircraft repair and maintenance centre, among other related projects, said Kobsak Pootrakool, Vice-Minister for the Office of the Prime Minister.
Kobsak said the funding for the studies was approved by the Cabinet yesterday.
The government has said the development of the airport will require 12 projects to be undertaken by 2021. These include the installation of closed-circuit television systems and X-ray units and software for security around the airport, as well as a communication system and a military bunker, a new building for the main airport office and air cargo facilities. Also included will be a personnel training centre, and other infrastructure required for the airport and related developments around the airport.
The government says it will support the establishment of a defence-related industry research zone under plans to promote the defence industry.
The Cabinet yesterday also increased the budget for construction of the personnel training centre to Bt1.4 billion, from the Bt1.26 billion approved last year.
The overall cost of developing of U-Tapao airport is estimated at Bt144 billion.
The cost for setting up the aircraft repair and maintenance centre is expected to come to Bt20 billion.
The government has been trying to woo foreign investors to join with the government under public- private partnership arrangements, in an effort to spare the public purse.
European-based Airbus Group and other investors have pledged to put their money into the planned aircraft repair and maintenance centre.
Three provinces covered
The U-Tapao airport plans form a key part of the government’s EEC projects that cover three provinces: Chachoengsao, Chon Buri and Rayong.
The government also plans to build high-speed rail lines to link up the U-Tapao, Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang airports.
The government projects that public and private investment in the EEC will amount to about Bt1.5 trillion in the first five years.
With policies to support high-tech industries, the government has high hopes that the EEC investment will boost growth in the country’s gross domestic product to 5 per cent from the current rate of about 3 per cent.