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Cape Town runway project awaiting Economic Regulator approval

6th November 2023

By: Tasneem Bulbulia

Senior Contributing Editor Online

     

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The starting of the Cape Town Aviation Infrastructure runway realignment is dependent on the approval by the Economic Regulator which is outstanding at this point; as well as the review of the masterplan and consultation with the industry to ensure its business case viability within the context of the revised traffic forecasts and other relevant criteria, the Department of Transport (DoT) has noted in reply to questions at the National Council of Provinces.  

The project, when approved, will follow a tender process as regulated in the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act.

At this point, the project is not part of Airports Company South Africa’s (ACSA’s) immediate project plans and has not been approved as yet by the Economic Regulator, the DoT said.

In response to the question of “why two runways are sacrificed to provide for one new runway”, the DoT said this was to free up space for apron and terminal development, west of the current main runway 01/19 as per the approved Airport Master Plan.

The current passenger terminal area is land-locked between the current runway and the airport surface access system. No space therefore exists to expand the capacity of the airport, it explained.

Moreover, the DoT said the current peak capacity of the existing runway is limited at 30 movements (landings and take-offs) hourly owing to the lack of a parallel taxiway as there is no space to build a parallel taxiway.

The new proposed runway will provide a peak capacity of 42 to 44 movements (landings and take-offs) hourly to accommodate future traffic demand. All these factors are under review prior to ACSA making a revised investment decision, the DoT pointed out.

The current runway 16/34 was proposed to be removed as the proposed new runway 18/36 and associated taxiways will be built over the current secondary runway. The current main runway 01/19 will not be removed and will be used as a taxiway until there is space required for aircraft stands and terminal buildings in the long term, the DoT outlined.

During the preparation of the Airport Master Plan, six runway options were considered and, through a technical multi-criteria assessment, it was recommended to realign the current main runway, the department notes.

Another question posed was whether runway 16/34 will be improved for cross runway operations should the plan not be implemented. The DoT said the improvement of the cross runway would have no operational benefits.

All aspects of the project would be introduced at the rate consistent with traffic demand and ACSA’s affordability, the DoT added.

Responding to the Democratic Alliance (DA), Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga said the duration of the construction period for Cape Town Aviation Infrastructure was unknown at this stage, as the project was still under consideration by the Economic Regulator.

Once approval is received, it will enable ACSA to finalise the appropriate project implementation plan.

The DA also questioned whether Chikunga and/or her department had considered the possibility of building a new fully-instrument-conditioned equipped airport in the Kalbaskraal area.

“The planned runway realignment project is further intended to increase the capacity of the airport. Considering the existing demand of air travel within the greater Cape Town area, there is currently no compelling need to construct a new airport in the Kalbaskraal area.

“Furthermore, ACSA’s Recover and Sustain Strategy and the Economic Regulator permission process has identified a new process for Infrastructure Capital Programme funding in line with the traffic projections; and restoration of some of most capacity projects over the next five or ten years,” Chikunga explained.

She said the construction of an airport in the Kalbaskraal would have a detrimental impact on the airspace capacity and safety of operations of Cape Town International Airport, and that Kalbaskraal could not be an alternate airport for incoming and outgoing airlines operating into Cape Town.

The DA also questioned whether Chikunga had considered transferring the use of buildings on the eastern side of the main runway that has been previously used by the South African Air Force, and is now being used by the South African Police Service, to ACSA for use by General Aviation (GA) at a historically equivalent rate to provide quick access to the runway infrastructure to relieve congestion on the taxiways to assist GA in more effective use of spare capacity.

In response, the Minister said the implementation plan for the runway project had not been finalised as the approval had not been granted. After such decision from the Economic Regulator, the implementation plan including the impact on surrounding areas will only then be developed, she explained.

The DA also queried the feasibility of making the Somersveld Airfield, which is currently under military control, available for GA use.

Chikunga explained that military airports are a competency of the South African National Defense Force (SANDF); however, the 2017 National Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP) recommended co-use of military aerodromes with civilian traffic where possible. This requires approval being granted by SANDF, as well as consultation with the South African Civil Aviation Authority.

She said Air Traffic Navigation Services does not have an objection to the aerodrome being used for GA with an aerodrome traffic area of not more than  5 km around the aerodrome and also, not more than 1 500 feet above the aerodrome elevation.

This dimension is a standard aerodrome traffic area for GA operation. Such an airspace will be clear of the Cape Town International Airport controlled airspace, Chikunga indicated. 

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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