VIENTIANE: Construction on a new airport in Xayaboury province will begin next year to facilitate better transportation and boost trade and tourism in the region.
Survey and design work for the airport in Phiang district's Namthuan village was completed recently after starting at the end of last year.
The 32 hectare airstrip will be built with government funding, but expected costs are yet to be revealed.
Xayaboury Public Works and Transport Department Director, Phang Duangngeun, said construction would begin sometime in 2014.
He said the provincial authority was in the process of assessing the value of rice and vegetable fields at the proposed site, to calculate the compensation to be offered to local residents.
The department will put the construction contract out to open tender in November and December.
Phang said the existing Xayaboury airport was small and technical standards were low, but it could not be enlarged because of the surrounding mountainous terrain.
Few flights operate between Vientiane and Xayaboury as the airport can only accommodate helicopters and small planes.
The new airport is expected to be able to handle Lao Airlines' 74-seat ATR 72 planes, which the current airport cannot.
Phang said the existing airport would be turned into a public recreation area once the new airport was built.
The airport development is part of an overall provincial effort to improve transportation.
Work has begun on the Nasak-Khokkhaodor Bridge in Paklai district, which will link Xayaboury and Vientiane provinces across the Mekong River.
The new route will reduce the road distance between the two provinces by 200km once upgrades to Road No. 11 from Vientiane to Paklai are complete and commuters no longer have to travel through Luang Prabang province.
The route will also avoid the winding, dangerous and steep roads that plague the current journey.
At present, people travelling from Vientiane to Xayaboury travel most of the way to Luang Prabang before getting a ferry across the Mekong a 360km trip that can take an inordinate amount of time.
– By arrangement with the ANN/Vientiane Times –