Kulim airport to have two runways

Impressive: The proposed site for the planned Kulim airport (top left) and (above) an artist impression of the terminal building that has been shared on Facebook since 2015.

GEORGE TOWN: A presentation file from Kedah’s Budget 2020 dialogue shows that the proposed Kulim International Airport (KXP) will have two runways, sitting on a 17sq km piece of land at the state’s border with Penang.

The file, which leaked out of the closed-door dialogue yesterday onto WhatsApp, also shows that KXP’s development will be financed by the sale of a 18sq km piece of land around the proposed airport site.

The dialogue session was between senior government officers, and attended by Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir.

Labelling KXP as the “game changer” and the “new gateway to the northern region”, the project is expected to have the potential to generate RM3.8bil in private investments to the vicinity and create up to 18,000 jobs.

In comparison to KXP’s 17sq km, Penang International Airport (PIA) is a mere 3.3sq km while the Kuala Lumpur International Airport’s land is a whopping 100sq km.

On the importance of having two runways, an airport expert told The Star that it would allow KXP to see 60 flight movements – landings and takeoffs – per hour.

“That is one flight movement per minute, barring unforeseen delays. It is ideal for clockwork efficiency in managing both cargo and passenger flights, ” said the expert, who added that KLIA has three runways and PIA has only one.

Based on the presentation, “sale of land bank through a master development together with KXP”

is expected to be the financing model.

The presentation states that the project promoter will sell 18sq km of land around KXP to developers and investors over 10 years, which is specified as being from this year until 2029.

A look at Google Earth shows that the land is presently a vast expanse of oil palm plantations and padi fields.

Although it is within Kulim district, it is actually about 10km from the heart of the Sungai Petani town, right beside Bandar Puteri Jaya, a suburb south-west of Sungai Petani.

The site is about 20km from Kulim town, and about 30km from the mainland point of Penang Bridge.

Likewise, should the Penang undersea tunnel be built as the third link between Penang island and the mainland (at Bagan Ajam, Butterworth), the journey is also about 30km via the North-South Expressway.

The land acquisition cost of this site is calculated at RM3psf, and when the status is converted to development land, it is targeted to have a market value of RM21psf

(or a seven-fold increase), which leads to a development budget of RM3.25bil, spread over 10 years.

In one of the slides, it is shown that a new interchange is earmarked along the North-South Expressway, north of Muda River, to connect KXP to the expressway.

In terms of domestic tourism, the KXP’s catchment is estimated to cover 1.2 million people living in Kuala Muda, Kulim, Baling and Penang’s north Seberang Prai district.

The Star has sent an email to KXP AirportCity Holdings Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Datuk Dr Annuar Mohd Saffar for comment on the presentation slides, and is awaiting his reply.

It is found that the holding company has called a tender for consultants to develop the master plan for KXP AirportCity, or Aerotropolis. The tender closed on July 31.

On the website, kxp-airport.com, an announcement on the tender for environmental impact, social and traffic assessments is also displayed.

KXP is expected to have far reaching economic impact for both Penang, Kedah and southern Thailand, which relies heavily on northern Malaysia’s public infrastructure, including Penang Port, because Bangkok is too far from the region.

In July 2014, Wong Hon Wai, as then political secretary to former chief minister Lim Guan Eng, revealed that KXP was being planned when he called on the Federal Government to specify whether KXP is in the National Airport Master Plan.

Since then, many people have commented on the proposal and on social media, Kedahans and those living in Seberang Perai seem eager for KXP to become reality.

Penang’s islanders, however, prefer PIA.

Penang Chief Minister, Chow Kon Yeow, has been critical of KXP and called for further studies.

Earlier, Chow said Penang had hired consultants to study KXP’s impact, and the analysis showed that it would be injurious to Penang’s economy.

In an interview with Astro Awani on May 3, Mukhriz said KXP would only handle cargo, and not passengers.

Chow, in the Penang state assembly meeting in mid-May, expressed doubt that an airport of KXP’s size was only for cargo.

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