La Mercy airport to be operational in March 2010

By Proffesor Ndawonde

Pretoria - The construction of an International Airport in La Mercy, north of Durban, will be completed early next year to boost 2010 FIFA World Cup transport infrastructure.

The R7 billion international airport is anticipated to be completed in early 2010 and fully operational in March next year.

"While this airport will come into operation in March 2010, owing to the FIFA World Cup, we will keep the two Durban airports operational to cater for the expected influx of passengers during that period," said Transport Minister, Sibusiso Ndebele, on Tuesday during a visit at the airport.

This means KwaZulu-Natal will for some time next year have two international airports operating at the same time.

"Our presence here today is testimony that come 2010, our airports, roads and rail infrastructure will be ready to accommodate the transportation of more than 400 000 expected fans to various places for the tournament," the minister said.

The airport will have the capacity to initially facilitate 7.5 million passengers annually with a 3.7km runway that will accommodate new generation aircraft. It is also the first green fields airport in South Africa.

The construction and operation of La Mercy will create about 270 000 jobs and several business opportunities.

Ndebele explained that this would add to the contribution to the national Gross Domestic Product of R20 billion and that the project would result in the increase of fixed investments at R6.9 billion and the increased Government revenues and taxes at R4.3 billion

The airport is yet to be named with Cabinet expected to approve and officially announce it soon. This is a process which was not only of interest to locals but is also to the aviation community internationally, said the minister.

The naming of the airport is an urgent matter because after the final draw on 4 December, travel agents will begin booking for the World Cup because the countries will know where the first round matches will be played.

Ten other major airports are been renovated ahead of the World Cup, including the construction of the R900 million central terminal building at Cape Town International Airport. - BuaNews