The much-anticipated opening of Kuala Namu International Airport serving Medan, North Sumatra, will be postponed from March to August on road access problems, an official has said.
Tri Sunoko, the president director of state-owned airport operator Angkasa Pura II (AP II), said that a 14-kilometer road connecting Medan to the airport in Deli Serdang regency was not in good shape and would also be delayed by land acquisition problems.
“We have decided to postpone the operation because the road is not ready yet,” Tri told The Jakarta Post on Monday, saying that the current condition of the road would “automatically disturb the transportation access and mobility of passengers from and to the new airport”.
“We have talked to local government to help accelerate the process,” Tri said.
Medan’s current airport, Polonia International Airport, has been operating over capacity. The airport, which is rated to serve 1 million passengers a year, served more than 7 million passengers last year alone.
Tri said that the road was critical for the new airport, as most people would use it to access Kuala Namu. “The airport train is ready to support the operation of Kuala Namu now, but its capacity is not enough to meet demand from passengers.”
State-owned train company PT Kereta Api Indonesia (KAI), through subsidiary PT Railink, finished the airport train project earlier this year. The train is expected to serve up to 1.3 million passengers a year.
Tri said that he has spoken with Vice President Boediono, who approved of plans to delay the opening of the airport.
“I think it is better and wiser to postpone the opening, rather than force it merely to reach our target, which is not in the best interest of the people,” Tri said.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been slated to inaugurate Kuala Namu in August.
Contacted separately, Djoko Murjanto, chief of the Public Works Ministry’s highway directorate, said that the problems with the access road were in a single 200-meter segment.
Holding out hope for an earlier opening of the airport, Djoko said that land for the 200-meter segment was acquired in December and that the government had already started work on finishing the project.
“I do not think they have to wait until August to open the new airport because the road is quite ready,” Djoko said.
The government, according to Djoko, had also been preparing to build a toll road to the airport, with the ministry’s Toll Road Authority Agency (BPJT) currently selecting investors for the project.
Djoko said that he expected that construction of the toll road would begin this year, so that the airport could be accessed by train, road and toll road by the end of 2016.
Expected to serve as the main gateway for resource-rich Sumatra, Kuala Namu airport will have the capacity to serve 8.1 million passengers annually when it opens.
The Rp 5.5 trillion (US$566.5 million) airport, located around 42 kilometers from Polonia, will be equipped with a 3,750-meter runway and an apron that can accommodate 33 wide-body aircraft, such as Airbus A330s, A380s and Boeing B747s.
According to Tri, around 93 percent of the airport’s construction has been completed.
The airport started trial operations in January to review the flow of its operations and detect
possible flaws before putting it into full service.