Monday March 18, 2013
Changi-Senai twin airport proposal
By ZAZALI MUSA
JOHOR BARU: Iskandar Malaysia is planning to propose the twin-airport concept to Singapore in a bid to boost the aviation industry in the republic and south Johor.
Iskandar Regional Development Authority (Irda) chief executive officer Datuk Ismail Ibrahim said it would further complement the two major transportation projects already in the planning stages between the two countries.
The projects are the High-Speed Rail (HSR) linking Kuala Lumpur and Singapore in just 90 minutes and the Rapid Transit System link (RTS) to improve connectivity and accessibility between Johor Baru and Singapore.
Ismail said with the two projects already on the drawing block, it was only logical for Malaysia and Singapore to start looking at ways to improve air travel in both countries.
“We should capitalise on each other's strengths and capabilities to make the twin-airport project a reality for mutual benefit,'' he said in an interview with StarBiz.
Ismail said with the shorter travelling time between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore via the HSR, it was only logical to undertake the project “the sooner the better.”
Malaysia and Singapore had on Feb 19 jointly announced their agreement to build the HSR between the republic and Kuala Lumpur, expected to be completed in 2020.
The proposed project would cut travel time between the two capitals to just 90 minutes from the present five hours of driving and seven hours by rail.
On the other hand, the RTS link is expected to be up and operational by 2018 and have a co-located Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) facility in Singapore and CIQ facility here so that commuters need to clear immigration only once for each way of travel.
“Iskandar's close proximity to Singapore justifies us looking at ourselves as a single economic node and the point that Johor and Singapore cannot grow on their own,'' he said.
Ismail said Singapore and Iskandar would be a force to be reckoned with within the next 10 years, and both would be one huge economic corridor in the region and the envy of others in Asean.
He said Malaysia had to accept the fact that Singapore had positioned Changi Airport as one of the major hubs in the world for long-haul flights in the commercial aviation sector.
Ismail said Singapore was years ahead compared with Malaysia in the running of the airport; on how it managed to get the airlines to fly into Changi and the incentives given to them.
He said the odd thing about the aviation industry was that while it grew from the economic point of view, it would also create new demand at the same time.
“While Changi is serving the long-haul flight segment, it is creating a gap which is growing wider and wider that of the regional and medium-haul services segment,'' said Ismail.
He said while Singapore might want to develop the regional and medium-haul flight segment out of Changi, the airport faced a major problem of space constraint.
Ismail said Changi would reach the limit whereby it could no longer expand to cater to the growing demand for the regional and medium-haul services segment.
“This is where Senai Airport comes in it would serve as the airport for the regional and the medium-haul services segment, while Changi continued to reaffirm its position in the long-haul flight segment,'' he explained.
Ismail said regional flights referred to a three to four-hour timeframe, where the same plane could fly to one destination and return home the same day by dropping off passengers and ferrying in new ones.
He said it would result in lower operating costs, as the flight crew would not have to stay overnight and the plane would not have to pay airport charges.
“If Singapore does not start thinking about the twin-airport project and capitalise on it, then Changi might lose its position as a leading regional aviation hub,'' Ismail pointed out.
He said other cities in the region such as Bangkok, Jakarta, Manila or even Kuala Lumpur would eventually overtake Singapore.
Ismail said the twin-airport project was not something new, as major cities in Europe and North America have always had twin airports operating as one.
He said London had the Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted Airports, Paris the Charles de Gaulle and Orly Airports, while Amsterdam had Schipol International Airport and Lelystad Airport.