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Another larger terminal to be built at Bhairahawa

Gautam Buddha International Airport in Bhairahawa is preparing to invite bids to build a new international terminal following concerns that the previously designed terminal, which is nearing completion, may not be large enough to accommodate forecasted passenger traffic growth.

Project officials said that tenders for the construction of a 35,000-square metre terminal—nearly as large as the terminal at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport—would be invited this week.

The proposed new building will have at least 15 parking bays and be fitted with aerobridges, said Sanjiv Gautam, director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal. The originally planned 15,000-square metre terminal will be repurposed for domestic flights, said Gautam. It has six parking bays and no aerobridge, he said.

The plan to construct a new terminal building and parking bays follows the Finance Ministry’s concern that the currently designed facilities will be insufficient to handle future travel demand.

Severe congestion at Tribhuvan International Airport which has only nine parking bays prompted the ministry to ask the project to develop a bigger facility, officials said. Overcrowding at Kathmandu’s airport is becoming worse by the day as airlines are aggressively expanding their fleets in response to growing air travel demand in the country.

The national pride project in Bhairahawa has been envisaged to serve the fast-rising business and industrial hub of Bhairahawa and facilitate international pilgrimage to Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha. The much-delayed airport project is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2019. According to Gautam, the project has completed 68 percent of the civil works.

The civil works component accounts for 70 percent of the project while the remaining 30 percent involves Communications, Navigation and Surveillance (ANS) and Air Traffic Management (ATM) systems. The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal has awarded a $4.83 million contract to install communications, navigation and surveillance and air traffic management systems at the airport to Aeronautical Radio of Thailand.

The project plans to open the airport’s 3,000-metre-long and 45-metre-wide runway to domestic flights by April, said Gautam. The civil works contract worth Rs6.22 billion was awarded to China’s Northwest Civil Aviation Airport Construction Group in November 2013. The airport was initially slated to be ready by December 2017.

Fuel and building material shortages due to the months-long Tarai banda in 2015 delayed the upgradation works by six months, and its operation deadline was revised to June 2018.

Subsequently, a dispute over payment between the Chinese contractor and the Nepali sub-contractor, Northwest Infra Nepal, stalled works at the construction site for more than six months. As a result, the project deadline was extended many times after the initial extensions.

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