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Saudi plans to create global ‘aerotropolis’ with new airport

Saudi airport Supplied
The masterplan of Saudi Arabia's new King Salman International Airport in Riyadh was revealed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz
  • Riyadh airport to be one of the largest in the world
  • Plans to quadruple cargo capacity to 4.5m tonnes per annum
  • Hopes to boost passengers numbers to cater for surge in tourism

Saudi Arabia has drawn up a masterplan for King Salman International Airport, a major transport hub expected to span 57 sq km and boost annual passenger numbers from the current 29 million to 120 million by 2030. 

The new airport in the kingdom’s capital city Riyadh is intended to be one of the largest in the world, featuring six runways and encompassing the existing terminals at King Khalid International Airport, which opened in 1983. 

The airport will also include 12 sq km of airport support facilities, residential and recreational facilities, retail outlets, and logistics property such as warehouses.

The plan is for it to accommodate 185 million travellers per year by 2050, and process 3.5 million tonnes of cargo, said a statement from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF).

Aircraft traffic in the kingdom would increase to more than one million flights per year by 2050, from 211,000 currently, and the airport would create 103,000 direct and indirect jobs.

The project is part of the kingdom’s vision to transform Riyadh into one of the top 10 city economies in the world and support the growth of its population to 15 to 20 million people by 2030.

The airport masterplan will “boost the city’s position as a global logistics hub, stimulate transport, trade, and tourism, and act as a bridge linking the East with the West” of Saudi Arabia, the PIF statement said. 

Sustainability will be a key feature of the plans and the airport will be powered either fully or in part by renewable energy.

The masterplan was unveiled on Monday by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, prime minister and chairman of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs, and PIF’s chairman. 

The statement said that King Salman International Airport will become “an aerotropolis centred around a seamless customer journey, world-class efficient operations, and innovation.

“Riyadh’s identity and the Saudi culture will be taken into consideration in the airport’s design to ensure a unique travel experience for visitors and transit travellers.”

The existing King Khalid International Airport is located 35km north of Riyadh and was designed by architecture practice HOK. It has five passenger terminals but only three of those have been in use until this month, when terminals 3 and 4 reopened in anticipation of a surge in air passengers due to the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar. 

The PIF statement did not say whether a construction team has been appointed to build King Salman International Airport yet, or when redevelopment work is scheduled to begin.

The new airport masterplan is part of the kingdom’s wider Vision 2030 plans, which aims to transform its aviation and logistics sector.

It plans to increase cargo capacity from around a million tonnes per annum to 4.5 million tonnes and hopes to boost the number of passengers through the kingdom’s 29 airports from 100 million to 330 million by the end of the decade.

The goal is to increase the sector’s contribution to national gross domestic product from six to 10 percent, helping to boost its non-oil revenues to SAR 45 billion ($12 billion) a year. 

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