Why was KLIA2 moved to a soft soil site?
11:41AM Dec 14, 2011
Why was a new masterplan drawn up in 2008 for the expansion of the low-cost carrier airport (KLIA2), resulting in the airport being built on soft soil, when an earlier plan circumvented this problem?
This question lies at the heart of the current outcry over the ballooning cost of the airport from an estimated RM1.7 billion to up to RM3.6 billion today.
Referring to the KL International Airport Masterplan 1992, Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua (left) said today the move also remained the main cause of the construction deadline for KLIA2 to be extended from September 2011 to April 2013.
“The transport minister and Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd must answer why they made a hard-to-fathom move to the new site. This is the reason the cost went up by more than RM2 billion,” Pua said.
According to the 1992 plan, the current construction site of KLIA2 “mainly comprises saturated marine clay with an overlay of peat material, which varies in thickness from two to three metres”.
"It has poor load bearing qualities and is not suitable for airport construction without undertaking significant engineering measures... which include improved drainage, removal of the peat layer and the introduction of fill material with good load bearing qualities (a minimum of three metres deep)," Pua said, quoting from the report.
The earthworks required to make the site suitable, he said, cost an estimated RM1.2 billion. This could have been saved if the 1992 masterplan, drawn up by Anglo-Japanese Airport Corporation Bhd, had been followed and the KLIA2 had been built on the original hard land area marked out.
The area marked out in the 1992 plan is a hilly area, which had already been prepared during the construction of the main terminal (KLIA) at the time.
Double watch towers and extra runway
The 2008 plan, drawn up by Netherlands Airport Consultants BV and KLIA Consultancy Services, led to further consequences on costs:
A third runway, estimated to cost RM270 million, has to be constructed as the new site would not allow KLIA and KLIA2 to share two runways. However, the third runway will also need to be built on soft soil, raising questions as to when it will be ready.
“Airlines would not want to move to KLIA2 if they have to taxi longer in order to use KLIA’s runways,” Pua said.
A second control tower, estimated to cost RM500 million, needs to be constructed as KLIA’s tower would not be able to see some parts of the third runway. The 1992 plan had both terminals sharing the same tower.
“This would make it the first modern airport, built after the 1960s, with two control towers within two kilometres of each other,” Pua said.
While conceding that he was not an expert in the field, Pua said an engineering expert who was consulted had said the deadline of April 2013 was “iffy” at best, mainly due to the poor soil.
In comparison, he said, the current low-cost carrier terminal (LCCT) had cost RM232 million and had taken about 15 months to construct, including upgrades.
“Of course it’s not fair as (KLIA2) would have a third runway, etc, but it gives a comparison of contrast in cost from the new airport and the current terminal. The current one was built in budget fashion, the new one is as good as a premium terminal.
“We are not disputing the need to move to a bigger terminal as the LCCT is close to capacity. Nor do we mind shifting the location, but not at such a ballooning cost,” Pua said.
LCCT currently caters to 15.4 million passengers, 400,000 more than its capacity.