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Friday January 2, 2009

A closer look at the proposed KLIA East@Labu

COMMENT
By WONG CHUN WAI


THERE are some reservations over the proposed new terminal at KLIA East@Labu.

After all, there is already the KLIA and the LCCT.

But let’s look at the bigger picture.

The new terminal will allow AirAsia and AirAsia X to grow and strengthen Malaysia’s position as a global air transport hub.

It’s actually going to be an exciting project.

Let’s look at it with the full statistics.

Latest figures show that in 2008, KLIA attracted 27.4 million travellers, far lower than the 37.8 million at Changi Airport and the 41.7 million at Bangkok International Airport.

The present LCCT is overcrowded and was never intended to be a permanent terminal.

But with a strong terminal, Malaysia will unseat Singapore by 2013 with 55 million air travellers compared with slightly over 51 million in Singapore.

Thailand will still hold the top position with an estimated 57 million travellers going through Bangkok.

This scenario will only happen if a new low cost terminal is built.

The present LCCT is overcrowded and was never intended to be a permanent terminal.

Repeat – a temporary structure.

It was built as a cargo terminal.

Even recent plans to expand the LCCT to accommodate 15 million passengers a year will not help AirAsia much.

Indeed, its expansion will not be able to sustain AirAsia’s passenger volume within a year.

The airline’s growth estimates show that AirAsia will carry 12.3 million passengers in 2009; 15.7 million in 2010; 19.4 million in 2011 and 30 million by 2013.

The current LCCT also has a severe shortage of aircraft parking bays and this could impede the growth of AirAsia.

There are 33 bays for A320s and three bays for A330/A340.

By next year, there will be a shortfall of six bays for the airline that has ordered a fleet of new aircraft.

By 2010, the shortfall will grow to 16 bays.

Malaysia Airports Bhd has said that it will be able to build a new LCCT by 2014.

By this time, the shortfall of parking bays will be 41 and there will be a 12 million shortfall at the present LCCT.

Little wonder then that the Cabinet, Finance Ministry and Economic Planning Unit officials endorsed the plan to build KLIA East@Labu last week.

The reality is that the current LCCT has outlived its usefulness and with the Government facing the reality of a worldwide economic slowdown, funds are tight to build a new facility.

The plan put forward by Sime Darby Bhd and AirAsia involves private sector financing.

Sime Darby will set aside a sliver of the huge tract of plantation land it owns in Labu and its property arm will build KLIA East@Labu by 2011 at a cost of RM1.6bil, minus land cost.

The multinational will then sell the terminal to either AirAsia or a consortium led by AirAsia.

It’s not difficult to understand why Sime Darby is involved in the venture.

It wants the terminal and its ancillary facilities to become a catalyst for its Vision Valley development.

This Vision Valley master plan of housing, recreational, wellness and health facilities is aimed at meeting the needs of the Klang Valley population which is set to grow to 10 million by 2025.

Two of the main supporters of the KLIA East@Labu have been the Negri Sembilan and Malacca state governments.

Both these states know that they will benefit from the economic activity generated by the terminal while Malacca is likely to get a stronger inflow of tourists.

Sources said several other sites for the new LCCT at the present KLIA site were proposed but were found to be unsuitable.

The site at KLIA North was not suitable because the height of the ERL track makes it impossible to develop it there while the swamp soil condition at KLIA West is too costly and time consuming to develop.

How will KLIA and KLIA East@Labu be connected?

·A 7km branch road will be built to link KLIA East@Labu to KLIA and the North South Expressway.

·A 7km ERL link is proposed from KLIA to KLIA East.

·A bus hub will be built at KLIA East

·A 3km KTM Komuter railway line is being proposed from the railway station in Labu.

All the costs for building the airport, road and rail links will be privately financed.

Where is KLIA East@Labu?

About 8.6km from the KLIA main terminal building.

By road, the distance from KL’s Golden Triangle to KLIA East is 50km, compared with a distance of 78km to KLIA.

With the new terminal, flying low cost carriers will never be the same again. It can only get much better.

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