Airport upgrades on track ahead of 2010

14th December 2007 By: Gerrit Bezuidenhout

Airport owner Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) is making strong headway in the upgrade of its ten airports ahead of the FIFA World Cup in 2010.

Acsa communications manager Solomon Makgale says that developments at the airports are well on track and will enable the company to meet the expected influx of visitors around 2010.

The developments, however, do not come without challenges, but Magale says Acsa is well equipped to deal with these.

“A major challenge for us is efficiency in terms of completing large projects within budget and on time to meet the ever-growing demand in passenger traffic. Key infrastructure, necessary for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, needs to be planned so that it will be completed by 2009 to ensure that construction ceases during the tournament,” Makgale says.

He agrees that this raises the challenge of skills, both within Acsa and outside in the construction and consulting industries.

Another area of concern is cost escalation in the construction industry. Acsa is a regulated entity and is, therefore, expected to justify all cost escalations, and carries any costs that the regulator believes to have been within its control. Makgale says that Acsa overcomes this challenge by careful planning of capital expenditure.


“In the 2006 financial year, total passenger traffic was up 11,3%, to 32,8-million passengers a year, with domestic passenger numbers rising 12,4%, to 23,6- million. International passenger traffic numbers rose 8,1%, to 8,2-million passengers in the same period. Infrastructure deployment does not take place at the same pace. The trick is, therefore, to plan ahead as much as possible,” Makgale explains.

He points out that with a design, planning and infra- structure programme extending up to 2030, Acsa has ensured that all contingencies will be managed in the future.

“Over the past ten years, annual consolidated passenger traffic through Acsa’s network of airports has grown by 106%, from 16-million passengers to 33-million. By 2010, this number will rise to 40-million a year, with a projected 139-million by 2030,” Makgale states.

He says that the sheer number of projected passengers means that Acsa will have to invest more in infrastructure development to successfully accommodate the growth. Acsa has spent more than R5-billion to date, and over the next five years, infrastructure spend will rise nearly four times, to R20-billion.


Makgale says that good progress has been made with the con- struction of the new

R1,9-billion central terminal building (CTB) linking the current domestic and international terminals at OR Tambo, while the bulk of the concrete structure will be completed by the end of 2007, leaving internal fit-out for 2008. The project is scheduled for completion by the end of 2009, six months before the 2010 soccer World Cup.

“The CTB is designed to give passengers a smooth and uninterrupted travel experience by facilitating processing through the various check-in and departure procedures, transfer and the like, all in the same terminal building,” Makgale explains.

The CTB will have sufficient check-in counters, security controls, and emigration counters to serve large numbers of passengers quickly and efficiently. It will also be connected to the Gautrain rapid-rail link for easy access to train transport to Johannesburg, Sandton, and Pretoria.

“The two existing inter- national arrival areas will be combined into a single new arrivals terminal, which will include carousels to accommodate the passenger loads of the new-generation A380 aircraft,” Makgale says.

The R533-million international pier development, which began in November 2005, is on track and will be completed by mid-2008. The final phase will be the completion of the extension of the retail mall. The new bus station associated with this development was commissioned at the end of May 2007, and the pier building was commissioned at the end of September 2007.

Nine new double-spoke air bridges will be incorporated as part of the pier building, linking directly with the aircraft. The dual air bridges will make the boarding and disembarking of passengers a great deal more efficient.

“This will ease the operations of the new A380 aircraft and the easy movement of large numbers of passengers through the air bridges, as boarding and disembarking will take place simul-taneously through the upper and lower levels. The result will be improved passenger service, which will allow airlines to improve their turnaround times,” Makgale explains.

The pier will also provide additional passenger holding space and an expanded duty- free
mall for international passengers.

As part of ongoing development to increase apron capacity, nine new aircraft stands were completed in 2006. Six of these are A380-compliant.

A new upper roadway has been constructed to the west of the current international departures terminal and the new road was successfully commissioned in March 2007, creating space to extend the public concourse of the terminal building, which will be completed by mid-2008.

“Construction is also well under way on the new 5 200-bay multistorey parkade, at a cost of R496-million. The development is being completed in phases to allow the release of new parking bays as early as possible. A hundred and eighty new bays were made available for public use in May 2007, another 180 bays during July 2007, and a further 260 in November 2007. Overall completion is planned for the first quarter of 2009,” Makgale says.


Makgale says that Acsa will continue to cater for passenger growth at Durban International Airport until its decommissioning in early 2010, when the new international airport at La Mercy comes into service.

At La Mercy, Makgale says that Acsa will build, own, and operate an airport while development of the Dube Tradeport is being conducted by Dube Tradeport, a section 21 company set up by the provincial government.

“Construction of the facility began on August 24, following the announcement of the record of decision by the Ministry of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, on August 23. This demonstrates the urgency and the seriousness of the approach to get the country ready for 2010, and to put in place the necessary infrastructure. The current Durban International Airport site will be decommissioned and operations moved to the new airport,” Makgale comments.

Because of the location of the current Durban International Airport, expansion opportunities of the site have been limited.

There has also been a perception that the 2,4-km runway is too short for long-haul aircraft, thus limiting the region’s economic and tourism potential. The airport at the La Mercy site is planned to be fully operational by 2010 and to have the capacity to handle 7,5-million passengers a year, with a 3,7-km runway that will accommodate long-haul and new-generation aircraft. It is planned that the airport will be expanded in the future, so that it will be able to handle a projected 45-million passengers a year by 2060.

“Progress at La Mercy is progressing satisfactorily. Acsa remains committed to ensuring that the facility is ready for use in 2010,” Makgale states.


Makgale says that substantial progress has been made with the new terminal development at Cape Town International Airport, known as Terminal 2010, which is scheduled for completion by the end of 2009. The terminal will cost about R1-billion.

“The development will consolidate facilities for both international and domestic passengers into a centralised check-in processing facility, with sufficient capacity until 2015. Separate baggage claim areas will, however, be provided for international and domestic passengers. A centralised retail mall is planned to capture all pedestrian circulation from landside facilities, such as public parking, and car rental and public transport,” Makgale explains.

The completion of the first multistorey parkade of 2 000 parking bays revealed a demand for public parking, which necessitated the development of further public parking space. Thus, design work on a second 4 000 bay multistorey parkade has progressed with the appointment of a contractor, who will begin construction during July 2007. Construction will be in phases to allow early release of parking bays for public use and overall
completion is planned for mid-2009.


Makgale points out that capital development is not confined to the international airports. The national airports, which are experiencing enormous growth in domestic passenger travel, are also being upgraded.

The R39-million expansion and upgrade of the George Airport terminal building was completed at the end of April 2007, while work on the R35-million upgrade of the Bloemfontein terminal building was begun in May 2007 and is scheduled for completion by December 2008.

Planning for the upgrade of the East London terminal building has progressed to a stage where tenders were called for at the end of July 2007.

Planning is also under way at Upington Airport for the terminal building upgrade and extension, as well as to create a facility suitable for the long-term parking of mothballed aircraft.

Planning for an upgrade of the terminal building at Kimberley Airport is also well advanced.
“With the planning that has gone into the infrastructure upgrades at its airports, Acsa will be well placed to continue to deliver on its promise to the people of South Africa long after the soccer Word Cup is over,” Makgale concludes.