Hornbill Unleashed

April 8, 2014

RM45 million wasted in Ipoh airport upgrade as potholes prevent bigger aircraft landings

Filed under: Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 8:08 AM
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An RM45 million upgrade for the Sultan Azlan Shah Airport in Ipoh is now subject of a state Public Accounts Committee probe after it was discovered that the runway extension was done shoddily. Potholes are preventing larger aircraft from landing there. – The Malaysian Insider pic, April 7, 2014.V. ANBALAGAN

An RM45 million upgrade for the Sultan Azlan Shah Airport in Ipoh is now subject of a state Public Accounts Committee probe after it was discovered that the runway extension was done shoddily. Potholes are preventing larger aircraft from landing there.

Some RM45 million of public funds had been spent to upgrade the Sultan Azlan Shah airport in Ipoh so that bigger aircraft can brings loads of tourists to the silver state.

The problem: the finished product does not meet safety standards and only propeller aircraft can now use the ‎runway pockmarked with potholes.

The Perak Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is probing into the fiasco but it is not known what the Perak government is doing after the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) declared that the 2,000m airstrip was unsafe for bigger aircraft as potholes appeared on the extended part of the runway.

Kepayang assemblyman and Perak DAP chairman Nga Kor Ming said the runway was extended from 1,780m to 2,000m to cater for bigger planes from Singapore, Medan and Hong Kong but only FireFly, the Malaysia Airlines unit, is operating the Ipoh-Singapore route daily with an ATR 72 turbo-propeller plane.

“The contractor, architect and engineer involved in the construction of the extension on the runway will be called up,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

He declined to comment further as he was a member of the PAC investigating the case.

The airport used to cater for daily morning flights between the tin-mining city and Subang for those taking connecting flights, especially to Hong Kong. But the North-South Highway had made access between Ipoh and other cities more convenient and cut down the flights to Ipoh.

Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir (pic) had said that the airport was refurbished to fly in foreigners as Perak had the potential to develop further its tourism sector.

But sources told The Malaysian Insider that nine potholes had developed on the extended runway, forcing the DCA last December to declare landings and take-offs as unsafe.

The source said the PAC was looking into elements of corruption and whether procedures were followed in the extension work.

“Was there a soil test conducted as potholes are a common occurrence in Ipoh,” the source said.

The upgrade to the terminal building included the construction of a new roof and facade while the arrival and departure halls were enlarged and the facility fully air-conditioned to improve passengers’ comfort level.

Additionally, the apron had been widened to accommodate three aircraft on the ground simultaneously.

Nga said it would be a wishful thinking for Zambry to develop Perak without an optimum operating airport.

“Development in the state will remain stagnant if infrastructure like communication is not improved,” he said.

Nga, who is also Taiping MP, said this in response to Zambry’s estimation that there would be 1.4 million tourist arrivals in the first year once the Million Movie Animation Park Studios (MAPS) started operating in 2016.

Nga said the Zambry’s estimation was fictitious and unrealistic when Perak did not have an international airport.

Perak Corporation Berhad last week unveiled the RM300 million MAPS in Meru, Ipoh, which is expected to be completed in December next year.

He said the nearest international airport from MAPS would be Penang, which is about 150km away and the Kuala Lumpur International Airport about 250km away.

“How is MAPS going to attract foreign tourists when there is no international airport in Ipoh?”

Nga said Tourism Ministry’s statistics revealed that Malaysia received 102.2 million foreign tourists from 2008 to 2013 but only 2.4 million or a mere 2% visited Perak.

“This averaged about 400,000 visitors a year between 2008 and last year,” he said, adding that it was not realistic for Zambry to believe that the number of foreign tourists would triple or quadruple with the completion of MAPS without an international airport.

He said the theme-park business was a competitive one, with the opening of Legoland in Johor Baru and Universal Studio in Singapore in recent years.

Nga said the Cartoon Network Amazone Waterpark in Pattaya would open in Thailand in July and the Twentieth Century Fox Theme Park in Genting was expected to open in 2016.

Legoland also benefited from foreign tourists going to Universal Studio Singapore because of its strategic location near to Singapore.

Universal Studio Singapore recorded two million tourists in its first nine months of opening.

On the other hand, the Twentieth Century Fox Theme Park is a RM910 million investment to upgrade its existing theme park to woo international tourists.

The Cartoon Network Amazone Theme Park in Pattaya, although relatively small with a RM100 million investment, has the advantage of being next to an internationally renowned beach.

It is only a 15-minute drive from south Pattaya and could complement the beautiful beach of Pattaya and potentially attract more tourists to Pattaya.

“What is the competitive advantage of MAPS being a RM300 million theme park built in a city without an international airport?”

Nga urged Zambry to launch an Ipoh tourism master plan to include transport, infrastructure, food and accommodation to complement and attract more tourists to MAPS.


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