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Suvarnabhumi » Engineer: Repairs some areas should take only 2-4 weeks

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

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The complete closure of Suvarnabhumi airport is unnecessary as cracks on the runways and taxiways are only superficial with the underground structure found to be safe, investigators led by engineer Tortrakul Yomnak said yesterday.

He was disclosing the results of his committee’s investigation into cracks at the new airport. The inquiry was launched on Jan 26 under the orders of the Airports of Thailand (AOT) board led by Saprang Kalayanamitr.

Closing the entire airport for repairs has never been planned by the AOT or the Transport Ministry, but is being favoured by a National Legislative Assembly committee looking into the problems at Suvarnabhumi, led by Bannawit Kengrian.

The decision on the fate of the airport still rests with Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont and his cabinet.

Gen Surayud has said he will announce a decision tomorrow. But a source on the AOT board said the cabinet might decide on the matter today if Transport Minister Theera Haocharoen can forward the report in time for the weekly meeting.

The decision will be mainly based on the findings in the report by Mr Tortrakul and his team, the minister said.

Mr Tortrakul said complete closure of Suvarnabhumi would be unnecessary as the repairs to damaged areas should take only two to four weeks. However, one of the two runways would be closed to free up space for repairs to take place.

The airport could remain operational while the cracks were being fixed, he said, rejecting reports it could take six months or even a year to fix them.

Mr Tortrakul said the problems existed only on the tarmac made of asphaltic concrete. Asphaltic concrete forms the surface of runways, taxiways and taxi lanes which are adjacent to aprons.

Highways Department experts have tested the underlying concrete structures and found they measured up to high safety standards, Mr Tortrakul said.

Most of the damaged areas were on the taxi lanes and taxiways with the remaining small portion at the ends of both runways, he said.

The cracks were caused by underground water that had seeped up from the sand blanket, he said. The water naturally weakens the tarmac.

A permanent solution would require an in-depth study of the nature of the underground water at the location to design an appropriate underground drainage system.

Gen Saprang, also assistant secretary-general of the Council for National Security, expected the report by Mr Tortrakul to end worries about the safety of the new airport, and agreed with him that Suvarnabhumi could remain operational.

But the AOT will commission a team of international structural experts to re-examine the problems, he said. That could be possible after the Transport Ministry obtains a budget allocation from the cabinet, the AoT board chairman said.

A decision on who would be responsible for the repairs would be made after talks with all the firms involved, including those in charge of the design and construction.

Adm Theera said there will be no change in policy announced by Gen Surayud last week. Bangkok will have two international airports, Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang.

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