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Major Upgrade Coming for Taoyuan Airport

A major upgrading project has kicked off at Taoyuan International Airport to meet the needs of growing traffic due largely to improving cross-straits relations and, hopefully, help make the Taoyuan into an air transportation hub for East Asia.

The key part of the upgrading will be construction of a third terminal. During a presidential briefing on June 6, Mao Chi-kuo, minister of transportation and communications, reported that Terminal 3 will be part of the "framework plan for the development of Taoyuan International Airport Park," which also includes the construction of a third runway, expansion of the free trade zone at the airport, and construction of office buildings. Work will begin in the second half of this year.

Mao noted that the airport's passenger transport volume is expected to jump 20% this year, to 24.2 million. In the first four months of the year air cargo volume there soared 65.1% year-on-year, and transshipment volume in the free trade zone skyrocketed 2.2 times.

The third terminal will cost NT$50 billion (US$1.6 billion at NT$32:US$1) and be able to accommodate 43 million travelers a year, more than the 32 million capacity of the two existing terminals combined. The terminal will be built in several stages, with the first stage scheduled for completion in three or four years and the entire project in 2020.

The third runway will be 4,000 meters long and able to handle the Airbus A380, the world's largest jetliner. The third runway and third terminal will boost the airport's traffic handling capacity to 80-90 takeoffs and landings per hour.

A new building to be constructed near the third terminal will, among other functions, serve as a venue for international exhibitions.

Work on renovation of the first terminal is already under way and is now expected to be completed in September next year, three months ahead of the original schedule. The renovation is designed to boost the interior of the terminal to international standards and to double its floor area by adding extra space on both sides. The number of check-in counters and boarding gates will be considerably expanded to accommodate the large numbers of passengers carried by the largest modern airliners, and the shopping area will be greatly enlarged. Outside, separate roads will be built for large and small vehicles.

The terminal building will be encased in reinforced glass walls with long distances between pillars to provide a bright and cheery interior. Old construction materials will give way to new ones, and the present direct lighting will be replaced by indirect lighting to create a cozy atmosphere. In addition, an automated luggage-handling system will be installed.

The airport administration is also renovating the two existing runways, which, according to foreign pilots, are not up to quality standards after 30 years of use. They will be strengthened to support the weight of the largest jumbo jets such as the A380. Further, navigation facilities will be upgraded to reduce the influence of bad weather on takeoffs and landings. The runway and navigation aid improvement projects are scheduled for completion by May of 2014.

Another improvement is an NT$93 billion (US$2.9 billion) mass transit rail link from the Taipei Railway Station to the airport and beyond. The 51.5-kilometer line, being built by the government and scheduled for completion in 2012, will serve Terminal 2 before proceeding on southward to Zhongli in Taoyuan County. The trains will travel at a maximum of 100 kilometers per hour and get passengers from Taipei to the airport in 35 minutes.

Passengers using the new airport MRT line will be able to check themselves and their baggage in at the Taipei station and then proceed directly to their boarding gates upon arriving at the airport. Only three airports in the world now offer this kind of service: London, Hong Kong, and Kuala Lumpur.
(by Philip Liu)
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