THE first stage of the $300 million Gold Coast Airport upgrade has been put on hold until after the Commonwealth Games over fears that time to complete the development is running out.
While construction had been expected to start as early as May this year and finish ahead of the April 2018 deadline, airport owner Queensland Airports Ltd today revealed that completion of major construction work will now be pushed back to 2019.
It means passengers landing at the airport for the Games will still have to walk on the tarmac to the terminal as the transformational first stage to have included all-weather air bridges for the first time.
The key focus of the project, dubbed Project LIFT, is the creation of a new three-level terminal to the south of the existing facility. Construction of the second stage, which was to begin after the Games, involves the full redevelopment of the existing terminal.
However, the airport operator says some low-impact work will proceed immediately, including expansion of the apron capacity and introduction of self-check-in services to ease congestion through the terminal.
"Slight delays have pushed the timeline out and bad weather in the next 12 months could have seen the deadline extended further," says Gold Coast Airport chief operating officer Marion Charlton.
"While we would have liked to deliver the new building component of Project LIFT in time for the Games, the project has always been driven by long-term airport capacity, not the Commonwealth Games.
"We are acting now before construction has progressed too far. The new development timeline should see building work delivered in 2019."
The $300 million Project LIFT program is part of a long-term strategy for the airport to handle an expected 16 million passengers a year by 2031, or about 60 per cent of the current capacity of Sydney Airport.
Gold Coast Airport passenger numbers topped six million for the first time in 2015, boosted by increased capacity from international carriers.
Charlton says she is not concerned whether the airport will manage the passenger numbers expected during the Commonwealth Games to be held in April 2018.
"We already handle similar passenger numbers during peak times, such as Christmas," she says.
"We are not underestimating the task. We have the capabilities and experience to welcome our Games' guests in a warm and efficient manner."
Queensland Airports Ltd is working on a 20-year masterplan for the airport, due to be released soon.
Under the plan, the airport will be extended further south, with land also allocated for as yet unfunded connections to heavy rail through the Tugun bypass and light rail along the Gold Coast Highway.
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