14 October 2009
Construction of the R7-billion international airport at La Mercy, to the north of Durban, is set for completion by early 2010, and the airport is expected to be operational by March, in time to welcome visitors to the 2010 Fifa World Cup™.
“While this airport will come into operation in March 2010, owing to the Fifa World Cup, we will keep the two Durban airports operational to cater for the expected influx of passengers during that period,” Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele said during a visit to the airport this week.
This means that KwaZulu-Natal province will have two international airports operating at the same time for a certain period next year.
According to Business Report, the existing Durban International Airport will then be closed, with the land being earmarked for industrial use.
“Our presence here today is testimony that come 2010, our airports, roads and rail infrastructure will be ready to accommodate the transportation of more than 400 000 expected fans to various places for the tournament,” Ndebele said.
According to the Department of Transport, the La Mercy airport will initially have the capacity to handle 7.5-million passengers annually, with a 3.7-kilometre runway capable of accommodating new generation aircraft such as the double decker Airbus A380.
By 2060, it is envisaged that the airport will be able to handle a projected 45-million passengers per year.
“We estimate that about 270 000 jobs will be created directly and indirectly due to this project,” Ndebele said, adding that it would contribute in the region of R20-billion to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), result in R6.9-billion in fixed investment, and grow state revenue by R4.3-billion.
Airport naming process
The Cabinet is expected to approve and officially announce the new name of the airport soon. This was of interest not only to locals but to the aviation community internationally, Ndebele said.
“Renaming becomes even more urgent because internationally they cannot fly to a place with no name,” he said. “After the final draw on 4 December 2009, travel agents must start booking for the World Cup in June 2010 because the countries will know where the first round matches will be played.”
Ten other major airports are been renovated ahead of the World Cup, including construction of the R900-million central terminal building at Cape Town International Airport.
Looking beyond the World Cup, Ndebele said that as a country that sought to grow its tourism industry – and with the numbers of tourists arriving continuing to grow – it was important to invest in such infrastructure.
He pointed out that there were 54 airlines flying into South Africa in 2009 as compared to 18 in 1993, and that annual passenger numbers had risen from 12-million in 1999 to an expected 23-million this year.
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