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Experts Reject Plan for New Saigon Airport

As plans move forward for Saigon’s new Long Thanh airport, a pair of former aviation officials are questioning the need for such an investment.

Associate Prof. Dr Nguyen Thien Tong, former chairman of the aviation engineering department of the HCMC University of Technology and Le Trong Sanh, former head of the management department at Ho Chi Minh City's Tan Son Nhat Airport, favor upgrading Thanh Son Nhat as opposed to building a completely new airport. Tong compared the project to other, ambitious yet short-sighted infrastructure plans:

 “Recently there have been many projects, including one to build a sea port, worth thousands of billions of dong, but when the port was completed, no cargo ships came.”

While the pair concluded that it would only cost US$1 billion to expand the current airport, Japan Airport Consultants Inc., who are managing the Long Thanh project, say that the cost associated would actually be closer to US$25.2 billion and require the relocation of 140,000 people.

Beyond costs, they also think that building a new international airport while using Tan Son Nhat for domestic flights would make for inefficient transfer of passengers and cargo:

"No international passenger wants to take a bus to Tan Son Nhat to catch a domestic flight after their international flight lands at Long Thanh."

In July the Transport Ministry held a seminar on the development plan for Long Thanh International Airport which is set to replace Tan Son Nhat by 2020. With a total investment of US$7.81 billion in its current design, the ministry warned that the cost could rise significantly if the project is expanded.

The new airport will be built over a 5,000 hectare area in Long Thanh Disrict, eventually serving 80 – 100 million passengers and 5 million tons of cargo each year.

Lai Xuan Thanh, head of the Airline Department, said his organization is doing everything possible to ensure the project begins on time, “the ministry will mobilize all possible capital sources to begin building the airport in 2015.”

The new airport received approval from the government in August 2011 with the expectation that it will be capable of competing with other large airports in Southeast Asia.

In addition to the airport itself, Dong Nai authorities have released a development plan for the 21,000 hectare area surrounding the future airport that will include a tourism complex, several industrial clusters, and world-class sporting, education and health care facilities.

Despite the criticism, it's unlikely it will have any effect given how much has already been invested in the project.  

[Tuoi Tre]

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