Runway improvement at TIA to begin next MarchTribhuvan International Airport (TIA) has said that on-ground works to rehabilitate the five-decade-old runway will formally begin by next March.
Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) has said that on-ground works to rehabilitate the five-decade-old runway will formally begin by next March.
The task of prequalifying bidders for the rehabilitation project is at the final stage, the airport authority said. It has been studying the prequalification bids of 11 firms.
“After the prequalification is completed, we will invite financial proposals from technically qualified bidders and then award the project contract,” said Devanand Upadhyay, general manager of TIA. “We have targeted beginning on-ground works by March next year.”
For the last four years, TIA has had to forbid aircraft weighing more than 196 tonnes to land on the ageing runway to prevent further damage.
The old runway has been affecting smooth operation of aircraft due to repeated occurrences of cracks in the pavement.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan) has allocated $28 million for the improvement of the 3,050-metre runway and taxiways. It will dip into the Airport Development Fund (ADF) to finance the project. Since July 17, 2014, Caan has been collecting an extra Rs1,000 in airport development tax from each passenger departing on international flights from TIA. The money thus accumulated in the ADF will be spent on projects to improve facilities at TIA.
Although TIA had planned to begin work in December as it is slow tourism season and the rehabilitation work will not affect operations, project officials said that they had postponed the plan to allow more potential bidders to participate.
“There were nine bidders when the bidding notice was published for the first time. Three more bidders submitted their documents when the deadline was extended,” said Upadhyay. Out of the total 12 bidders, one has pulled out of the race.
According to Caan officials, the net construction time which is six hours in the night time for runway construction is four months. For the construction of the taxiway, it will take at least eight months.
“As we have to shut down the airport between 12pm and 6am daily to carry out the runway rehabilitation works, we have to make sure that airport operations will not be obstructed beyond the given timeline,” said Upadhyay.
“The task to be completed on the respective day will be measured and performed accordingly. That’s why we are carefully evaluating the bids from the prequalification stage so that we can appoint the most experienced contractor with the adequate manpower.”
Upadhyay added that the contractor for the project would be permitted to step on the runway only after making sure that all the required materials are ready.
A study conducted by Caan in 2014 had concluded that the runway at TIA was not strong enough to handle wide-body jets due to its ageing asphalt foundation, and distress is caused to the upper surface instantly when heavy planes land. The damage to the lower asphalt layers is reflected quickly in the upper surface, resulting in cracks and other damage to the runway.
The study report has suggested that the lower layers of the runway be dug up and the foundation repaved by removing damaged asphalt layers and substituting them with a new base and surface courses.
Repeated occurrences of cracks on the runway at the country’s sole international aerial gateway have been affecting smooth operation of aircraft since 2011. Scores of flights have been diverted or delayed in recent years due to problems in the runway. Trouble mainly occurs during the rainy season.
The report said that when compared to the core part of the runway between 2006 and 2013, damage to the intermediate layers was caused by the operation of large jets like the Airbus A330 and Boeing 777.
In 2013, there were 1,000 operations of A330-300 aircraft, 955 of Boeing 777 and 452 of A330-200, and the numbers are expected to double in the next 20 years. Cracks first appeared on the runway in June 2011, and they have become a recurrent problem since then.
Cracks were reported occasionally in 2012. However, the problem worsened in 2013, forcing Caan to take a harsh decision to bar aircraft weighing more than 196 tonnes from landing at TIA. In 1964, Tribhuvan Airport was named as Tribhuvan International Airport.
New parking bays being built
The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan) has been developing two new parking bays at the eastern part of the runway to address a ground space crunch. According to Caan, these two parking bays will be completed in one and a half years. TIA has nine international parking bays—three suitable for wide-body aircraft.