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75% of Entebbe airport expansion project complete – UCAA

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) has said at least 75 percent of the upgrade and expansion project for Entebbe International Airport has been done.

The 1.1 Trillion Shillings expansion project was driven by the rising number of passengers and cargo volumes handled at the airport and the need to improve customer experience, safety, security and comply with regulations.

The project was planned to be handled in two phases; the first running from 2016 to 2021 and the second ending 2023. Before the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Entebbe airport was handling an average of 70,000 metric tonnes of cargo every year, up from 6,600 tonnes in 1991. Passenger numbers also grew from 118,527 in 1991 to 1.9 million last year, creating a need for the expansion to suit the growth in numbers and cargo.

The construction by China Communication Construction Company (CCCC) covers among others the construction of a new cargo centre, a new passenger terminal building, strengthening of the airport runways and their associated taxiways. It also involves rehabilitating and reconstructing the three aircraft parking aprons.

Vianney Luggya, the UCAA spokesperson told Uganda Radio Network – URN that the works for the two runways and their associated taxiways have been completed. He explains that the repairs were undertaken on the badly affected areas on the main runway and a new overlay was done to improve on the structural strength of the pavements.

The second runway was entirely demolished by removing the existing concrete wearing course and constructed with a new wearing course of 100 mm in asphalt concrete. Luggya says that the works on the main runway were completed on time after suspension of commercial passenger flights at the airport during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Luggya said it was difficult to work on the runway at a time when several planes were landing and taking off at the same time. On average, Entebbe would have over 50 planes landing and taking off daily.

The unfinished works include; the aircraft parking aprons, construction of the new cargo complex and the new passenger terminal complex.

Works are now ongoing to strengthen and expand aircraft parking apron 1 which involves the construction of additional parking space and the resurfacing of the existing aircraft parking apron. The additional parking space is to be equipped with floodlights and a fuel hydrant system. It also includes the extension of former taxiway Alpha to connect to former taxiway Delta.

Meanwhile, the construction works for the new cargo complex are also ongoing. The complex is expected to handle cargo volumes of 100,000 tonnes every year. It will also have house cooling facilities, auxiliary business outlets and also a freight forwarders parlor. It is projected that the cargo volumes will increase to 172,000 tonnes by 2033.

However, Luggya says the construction work for a new passenger terminal has not yet started. The complex will have among others, three aerobridges and a new baggage handling system, bringing the total number of aerobridges at Entebbe airport to five. It will also result in the demolition of the existing import cargo facilities adjacent to the old passenger terminal.

By end of 2019/2020 financial year, UCAA was expected to ensure works are at 100 percent completion for the new cargo commercial centre, rehabilitation hospital works for Apron 2, resurfacing works for runway 17/35 and its associated taxiways and reconstruction works for Apron 4 (mostly used by the United Nations).

However in January this year, UCAA officials told members of the parliamentary committee on Physical Infrastructure that the project was at an average of 60 percent completion and some of the works such as the main runway would not be completed by June.

William Nzoghu, Busongora North MP and also Shadow Minister for Works and Transport says the committee (physical infrastructure) needs to revisit the site to ascertain what is happening there. “We visited the site in June and we were told that 48 percent of all works had been done. So it is impressive that they are now at 75 percent,” says Nzoghu.

“However, the committee must carry out an oversight visit with technocrats to ensure the works are of quality and that there is value for money. Unfortunately, that will be hard because campaigns have already started,” added Nzoghu.

Jonathan Odur, the Erute South MP agrees with Nzoghu. He says that 75 percent progress on physical works if true is highly commendable given that the airport was looking dilapidated and giving a bad image to the country. I hope that the quality of the physical works meets the standards envisaged so that full value for money is realized.”

Odur who is also a member of the physical infrastructure committee adds that the committee has been concerned about the financing for the project due to unstable cash flow resulting from the delayed release of funds from the Ministry of Finance.



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