After several false starts, it finally appears that U-Tapao airport will be developed to its maximum capacity.
The Ministry of Transport is to sign an agreement with the Royal Thai Navy, which oversees the airport, to establish massive roads and rail links. U-Tapao currently serves about 100,000 passengers a year, mainly domestic and charter flights, but will soon be able to handle at least 10 times that number. It is also home of the Thai Navy’s first air wing.
The Department of Highways has recently received a 300 million-baht budget to widen roads from two to four lanes, with construction scheduled for completion in 2017. A Pattaya to Map Ta Phut motorway will also be constructed for passengers using the airport. Although U-Tapao airport is ripe for development, few airlines use its services at present. A new passenger terminal building, now under construction, is expected to attract wide international interest. There are 110 rai of space available for future development.
In another transport move, the State Railway of Thailand will press ahead with construction of the airport link extension from Bangkok to Rayong to forge rail links between U-Tapao and Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports in the metropolis. However, no final decision has yet been reached whether the rail extension should extend to U-Tapao’s terminal or end at Ban Chang station in Rayong. U-Tapao is also being considered as the government’s choice for development into an aviation industrial estate. This would be a huge hub nationally for repairs and the manufacture of spare parts for aircraft as well as being a center for aviation research. Located southeast of Bangkok, U-Tapao is a joint civil-military public airport. Historically, there has been some sensitivity in senior navy circles about allowing the airport to develop commercially in a civilian context. However, this opposition is said to have been overcome by reasoned argument and the recent development of the Eastern Seaboard of Thailand, both industrially and for domestic and international tourism.
Pattaya city authorities are keeping a close eye on U-Tapao developments. If there was a high-speed direct rail connection between the two Bangkok airports and U-Tapao, Pattayas attraction as a SEASIDE RESORT would receive an enormous boost provided there was a scheduled stop in the city. But the current Pattaya railway station near Siam Country Club roads is remote and difficult to access. Nonetheless, the current road tunnel development on Sukhumvit Road, when completed in three years, should reduce the remoteness problem. It may be the next decade before the true benefits of all this infrastructure investment become apparent.
In a separate development, the interim Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha has raised the possibility of cooperation with Japan to fund a bullet train between Bangkok and Pattaya or Bangkok and Chiang Mai. But one of the problems would be the high cost of a ticket to ride a high-tech bullet train. Based on Japanese prices, a single ticket from Bangkok to Pattaya would amount to almost 3,000 baht, roughly the same as a limousine taxi.
Source: PATTAYA TODAY