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Tribhuvan International Airport runway extension project gets go-ahead

The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) has decided to sign a contract to lengthen the runway of Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) with a Nepali joint venture Kalika-Tundi, following legal advice to go for it. 

After the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority filed a corruption case at the Special Court against former minister Bikram Pandey, the chairman of Kalika Construction, the Air Transport Capacity Enhancement Project under which TIA is being expanded became confused over awarding the contract.

Pandey has been accused of substandard construction that led to repeated collapses of the main canal of the Sikta Irrigation Project.

“Our [CAAN] legal advisers have suggested that the corruption case has been filed to an individual and not the company. Hence, the law permits us to sign the contract with the company,” said Sanjiv Gautam, director general of the CAAN. “Apart from our legal advisors, we were cleared by independent legal advisers as well,” he said, adding that the contract would be signed soon. 

Three weeks ago, the project had had selected the joint venture of Kalika-Tundi for the nearly Rs1 billion project, under which the runway will be lengthened by 300 metres at its southern end, or runway 02.

This is the third time that the project has selected a contractor as the previous contractor, Shanxi Construction Engineering Group of China fled, abandoning its performance bond.

Last October, the project funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) signed a contract with Shanxi Construction. 

However, the project terminated the contract with the Chinese company in August and confiscated its Rs70 million performance bond for non-performance.

It issued a notice of intent to approve the bid of the second candidate among the shortlisted bidders. 

Before the Chinese company, a Spanish company Constructora Sanjose was hired to implement the project, but it had to be sent off for non-performance in December 2016. The duration of the runway extension project was 18 months. Sanjose and the project signed a contract for the TIA Modernisation Project, now known as the Air Transport Capacity Enhancement Project, in December 2012 with the completion deadline set for March 2016.

The project subsequently sent the Spanish company away by issuing a ‘notice of termination’ on December 9, 2016 for delays. The termination of the contract became effective on December 27, 2016. In June 2017, the project again invited bids to get the stalled project moving. It also broke up the project undertaken by the Spanish company into four different packages—one package was lengthening of TIA’s runway by 300 metres at its southern end.

The project aims to increase the safety area of the runway by 300 metres at the southern end so that if an aircraft making its takeoff roll from the northern end aborts takeoff, it will have room to stop on the runway. 

Currently, there is no overrun area at the northern end of the runway. If a plane taking off from this end runs out of runway, it could plunge into a ravine 50-60 metres deep. For this reason, it was decided to lengthen the runway at the southern end.

TIA recorded robust international passenger traffic growth in the first nine months of the year despite infrastructure bottlenecks. 

According to TIA, 3.1 million travellers passed through the airport during the period January-September, up 12.51 percent year-on-year.


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