Does Cape Town Really Need A R3.8 Billion Runway?

R3.8 billion has been allocated to the upgrade of the Cape Town International Airport runway. But where do the City’s priorities lie?
U
Melissa
Cohen
Published: Thursday, February 8th 2018
General
Last week, the Cape Town International Airport received the go ahead to upgrade the runway. This project, which is expected to cost a whopping R3.8 billion, aims to expand the runway. This will in turn be able to accommodate larger aircrafts. The project will commence next year and will take two years to complete. The extension of the primary runway will be designed to allow Code F aircraft landing space. Although this project will increase tourism in the city as well as boost job creation, is it really necessary right now?
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What Does The Project Entail? 

The Cape Town International Airport will be upgrading their existing primary runway by 3 500m in order to allow for a safe landing of larger aircrafts. Currently, Code F aircraft, such as the Airbus 380, are not allowed to land due to its sheer size. According to Cape Town International Airport's spokesperson, Deidre Davids, the airport has worked hard to gain this approval.
"The new runway and associated infrastructure will facilitate greater air access into Cape Town and the Western Cape. It will enable growth of passenger and cargo traffic that is essential for tourism and economic activity. The developments will improve access for larger aircraft with a wingspan of 65m or more, such as the Airbus A-380," explained Davids in a recent interview.
The runway's flight paths will be realigned 11.5 degrees anti-clockwise along the runway. This may have positive and negative consequences for residents in and around the area.

Runway Pros

Despite many arguing that the runway project is a bad idea, we have identified some of the positive long- term and short-term effects that it will have on the city. Take a look at some of our findings:

Job Creation

Davids expressed her excitement towards the project as she explained that it would provide job creation. During the construction process, over 200 people are expected to gain temporary employment. Once the runway has been completed, the airport intends to employ between 900 and 3 200 staff members to assist in runway operations.

Noise Levels

Due to the realignment of the flight paths, noise levels around the area will be impacted. There will be a noise level reduction in the following areas once the project has been completed:
  • Philipi East;
  • Woodlands;
  • Mitchells Plein;
  • Tafelsig.

Economy And Tourism

Due to the upgrade of the runway, the airport is expecting to see more tourists visiting the city. Currently, the runway can accommodate up to 30 aircrafts every hour. Once the runway is completed, this number will increase. This project will also increase the air access as well as enable Cape Town's growth of the passenger and cargo traffic. The airport aims to move the runway away from the terminal building. This will allow for the upgrading and expansion of the terminal building. Davids also explains that this will make way for more aircraft parking, which will mean more visitors in the city at a time.

Runway Cons

Although the runway is aimed at job creation and increasing the tourism and economy in Cape Town, is now the right time? We take a look at some of the cons that could have people up in arms over the runway project.

R3.8 Billion!

In order to complete the runway project, a whopping R3.8 billion is needed to be spent. Although this will improve the state of the current runway and eliminate noise, is now the right time for the city to be spending such a large sum of money? With Cape Town knee deep in water crisis, at the beginning of the year, the City said that they would be halting desalination developments. According to Mayoral Committee member, Xanthea Limberg, the cost of desalination plants exorbitant and not what they city is able to afford. Why is the government not putting the R3.8 billion towards the R16.5 billion desalination project?

Noise Issue

Although some parts of the city will experience a reduced amount of noise, Edgemead residents complained about the new runway. Edgemead, Bothasig, Belleville and Parow will be directly affected by the realignment of the runway. According to a 2015 Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), residents residing up to 15km from the airport would not only be affected by the noise, but this may impact their quality of life. The report states that environmentalists must revise the noise and its impact on residents, every five years. In the event that alterations should need to take place, the government would be expected to spend more money to rectify the issues.

Two Years Until Completion

According to Airport Company SA, the city experienced a 11.5% increase in visitors from December 2016. There was however, a 2.2% decrease in domestic visitors. The project is scheduled to start in 2019 with an estimated two years until completion. With the drought and the scarcity of tourists, will the tourism industry still be a float? So now that you can see the cads on the table, which side are you going to take?