GEORGE TOWN: The dream of an international airport in Kulim will never happen and Penang International Airport is going to be expanded, says Transport Minister Anthony Loke.
“In building any airport, there is a process that involves getting an aerodrome licence. But so far, the National Physical Planning Committee has not received any application from Kedah,” he said.
The question of whether Kulim International Airport (KXP) will replace Penang International Airport (PIA) has been a major infrastructure question playing in the minds of investors since 2015 at least.
KXP, which was actually proposed to be built near Sungai Petani close to the northern edge of mainland Penang, has been touted since the days when Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir was Kedah’s mentri besar.
There was much talk in the past that with KXP, much of the air transport advantage in terms of cargo and passenger strength will some day shift to Kedah and away from Penang.
The speculation came to an end in Parliament recently and Loke, who was in Penang yesterday, sealed KXP’s fate after confirming that the expansion and upgrading of PIA would begin by the end of this year.
“I have asked Malaysia Airport Holdings Bhd (MAHB) to expedite the process. We will have the conceptual design and MAHB must finalise the document as soon as possible.
“An open tender must be called within these two months so that we can start the expansion and upgrading project of PIA before the end of this year,” he told a press conference at Komtar here yesterday.
Loke said the Federal Government sees the PIA expansion project as an urgent need for the state as the current capacity of the airport has exceeded its actual capacity of 6.5 million passengers a year.
He said in 2019 before the Covid-19 pandemic, PIA recorded 8.33 million passengers, while last year, after two years of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, 4.27 million passengers were recorded although the country’s borders only re-opened in April last year.
He said the whole expansion cost will be borne by MAHB and when it is ready in four years, PIA will be able to accommodate up to 12 million passengers per year.
Loke added that the upgrading and expansion project will only involve MAHB’s existing land and will not involve any land reclamation or acquisition.
“The expansion project, when ready, will be able to provide the best service for passengers and will surely lift the image and economy of Penang,” he said.
He also said that the expansion project will use the same planning permission that was awarded by the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) in 2019.
Loke was at PIA, accompanied by Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow, on a working visit.
When asked about the planned Kulim International Airport, Loke said there were no applications made by the Kedah government for any aerodrome licence.