Two firms in rival bids for international airports in north of peninsula

Either successful bid could spell the end for the Penang International Airport in Bayan Lepas, which is on Penang island. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Either successful bid could spell the end for the Penang International Airport in Bayan Lepas, which is on Penang island. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

KUALA LUMPUR, June 10 — Two companies are bidding for new air terminals at different locations in Penang even as the state continues to oppose the proposed Kedah International Airport.

The Star reported today that the proposed locations of the airport will be somewhere in the south of Seberang Prai and within 10km of each other.

One proposal — called the North Malaysia International Airport (NMIA) — involves acquiring thousands of hectares of padi land, while another — the Northern Region International Airport (NORIA) — entails reclaiming 5,000ha off the coast of south Seberang Prai.

One of the companies has presented its proposal to the federal government while a competitor is expected to submit another soon, the English daily said.

The Star also concluded that either successful bid would effectively “spell the end for Penang International Airport (PIA) in Bayan Lepas which is on Penang island.”

The location of NMIA is estimated to cost some RM10 billion and covering a 650ha worth of land near the border shared by Kedah, Penang and Perak, the paper quoted a source as saying.

The proposal for NMIA includes an exchange for the rights to develop the coveted prime land now occupied by PIA, the paper added. The source said the company did not “ask for a sen” to build NMIA, and the proposers offered to build it in exchange for the PIA land.

At present, the site for the proposed airport is a vast tract of paddy field. The project will also include an additional 400ha for warehousing and logistics facilities.

The Bayan Lepas airport land is valued at RM7.2 billion with a development value more than double and enough to make NMIA commercially viable, according to the paper.

“The company proposed an airport large enough to handle 16 million passengers a year, expandable to 25 million,” one source was quoted as saying.

“It will serve the three states with a check-in terminal featuring a transit monorail for flight passengers to commute between Penang island and NMIA in 45 minutes.”

The monorail transit line could be 57km long, almost similar in length to the rail link between Kuala Lumpur International Airport and KL Sentral.

This rail link will likely include an interchange station with the Electric Train Service between Padang Besar (Perlis) and Kuala Lumpur, and stops at Batu Kawan Industrial Estate on the Penang mainland and near Queensbay Mall in Bayan Lepas on the island, the paper said.

The Star said the company’s proposal for NMIA “was so detailed that it surprised those to whom it was presented to the federal government.”

But the Penang state government is reportedly unaware of the proposal, with the paper quoting  a senior state executive council member as saying that “this is the first time I am hearing about it”.

Meanwhile the proposal for NORIA includes the building of an industrial fisheries port, a major enhancement to Penang’s aquaculture sector in south Seberang Prai and a new electronics industrial park.

Quoting another source, The Star said the project entails reclaiming 5,000ha of land between the second Penang bridge and the Penang-Perak border.

“It will be an island. On top of an airport, it will be the largest aquaculture and deep-sea fisheries hub in peninsular Malaysia,” the source was quoted as saying.

The fishing port is expected to spur tuna fishing activities in the Andaman Sea and the Indian Ocean on the other side of Sumatra island, the source claimed.

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