Vietnam's Ministry of Transport has slashed its estimate of the cost to build Long Thanh Airport in the southern province of Dong Nai, from over US$7.8 billion to around $6.6 billion.
The cost estimate is for the project’s first stage, which is slated to start next year, local media reported Wednesday.
The second phase, to expand the project further in 2023, has not been given a budget.
A leader of the transport ministry was quoted as saying in news website VnExpress that the government will submit the updated plan for the first phase to the law-making National Assembly’s standing committee on Thursday.
According to an official with the Airports Corporation of Vietnam, the “major” adjustment was mainly because project planners now decided to build one runway in the first stage, instead of two like previously planned.
Other changes in cost calculations, including not having to pay for state lands managed by the defense ministry, also helped shave off some VND4 trillion ($185.14 million), the official said.
Despite the changes, Long Thanh’s maximum capacity will still be maintained at 38 million passengers per year for the first stage, said Dinh Viet Thang, CEO of Vietnam Air Traffic Management Corporation.
Expected to be the country’s largest airport, and even a major transit hub for Southeast Asia, Long Thanh Airport has been designed to be able to serve up to 100 million passengers per year after 2050.
Since it gained the government’s in-principle approval a few years ago, the project has faced relentless opposition from critics who dismiss it as wasteful and say it would be better to expand Tan Son Nhat, Vietnam’s current largest airport in Ho Chi Minh City.
In fact, last year the Airports Corporation of Vietnam, which operates Tan Son Nhat, proposed to expand the airport, which reached its designed capacity of 20 million passengers per year at the end of 2013. The goal is to enable it to achieve a maximum capacity of 26 million passengers annually.
The corporation said the expansion is necessary either way, because it will be years until the new airport becomes operational.