Work in progress at Muscat International Airport. The passenger terminal building, located midway between two parallel runways, is designed to handle 12 million passengers a year. Image Credit: Supplied

Muscat: The much-delayed, ambitious Muscat International Airport project is now on a fast-track and the government is optimistic about opening the new airport for passengers by October 2014.

"We may be very ambitious while setting the deadline of October 2014, but with the kind of today's work progress, it seems achievable," Transport and Communications Minister Dr Ahmad Bin Mohammad Al Futaisi told the media during a tour of the project site on Monday.

"The construction work may finish by April 2014. It will be followed by about six months of soft operations of the transitional phase to move from the old building to the new building," he added.

He said the estimated cost of both new airports at Muscat and Salalah would be more than two billion Omani riyals (Dh19 billion). However, Al Futaisi, who took over as minister last July, sidestepped a question about the increase in the cost of the project due to delays.

He stressed there had been a complete synchronisation among the contractors.

Fast pace

"The entire project is moving at a very fast pace. The start of the construction process of the passenger terminal building, which is the largest and most important building of the project, indicates that we are on the right track," he enthused.

On the initial problems of water seepage in the project area, the minister said the problem had been resolved. "Yes it has been solved. That was a very difficult part of the project. It took us a while to prepare the soil by removing part of the soil and replacing it with external soil. Tremendous initial work has been done in this project," he added.

In his opinion, the foundation for the ground has been laid in such a manner that it can withstand any storm or floods. "It is made durable against any problem arising out of water contact or any major flood."

The enabling work for the new Muscat International Airport started in 2006 and had to go through some design changes after tropical cyclone Gonu in last 2007. "We were told, post Gonu, that there should be no basements, underground space or tunnels, so we had to go back to the drawing board again," said one designer during a tour of the project.

The passenger terminal, located midway between two parallel runways, is designed to handle 12 million passengers a year with a total area of 334,995 square metres. The terminal can be expanded to handle up to 48 million passengers. It is based on a two-level concept which separates arriving and departing passengers.

Cowi, in a joint venture with Larsen Architects and Copenhagen Airports, are the principal consultants on the expansion of the airport.

ADPI, the subsidiary of Aeroports de Paris, are the management consultants for the development and the project has been divided into various main contracts and standard national contracts.