Reconstruction of Riga Airport's sixth phase will cost around EUR 200 million - Odina

  • 2023-08-09
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - The reconstruction works of the sixth stage of Riga International Airport will cost about EUR 200 million and the airport is currently working on a financing model, Laila Odina, chairwoman of the airport's board, told LETA in an interview.

She said that cooperation with a major investment bank, cooperation with local banks or cooperation with the State Treasury was possible to raise funds.

"I think that a decision on the financing model will be made in the next month. The positive news is that everybody wants to work with us and is making offers. This means that our business plan is viable and we can plan to pay back the borrowed money in the long term," Odina said.

Once a decision on the financing model has been taken, the airport will put the construction work out to tender. This could include the first tender - the selection of qualified builders - in a month or two.

The construction of the sixth phase is expected to take about 36 months, but together with the landscaping works, the whole process could take 3-4 years. The Rail Baltica station at the airport is expected to be completed around the same time.

"Of course, this will cause some inconvenience for passengers. However, the construction will be done in phases and we have to think about every next step we will take so that passenger flow is not disrupted," said the airport manager.

The sixth phase of the airport's reconstruction will see the expansion and modernization of the terminal building where passengers arrive. Odina reminded that this terminal building will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year and, unfortunately, not much has changed in this public part of the airport in those 50 years. Consequently, the airport's capacity is insufficient.

"In 2019, you could see this at check-in and baggage drop, as well as at security checks. We see it now too, especially in the early hours of the morning when there are more flights - there are a lot of people, there is little space. That has to change. Also, new technologies are coming in, so we want a different layout in the public area of the terminal," Odina said.

She also said that the airport wants to buy the latest generation of explosives detection systems for checking hand luggage, so that liquids and computers do not have to be removed from hand luggage during checks. However, this cannot be done at the moment because the space allocated for security screening is too small for this capacity. The new machines are heavier and bigger, so instead of the current eight security lines, only four or so new ones could be put in, which would mean even longer queues and more inconvenience for passengers.

For the same reason, the arrivals hall needs to be enlarged, as there is only room for two belts for passenger baggage reclaim.

The expansion of the airport's passenger terminal will also require the construction of new access roads, a direct link to the future Rail Baltica railway station and a new multi-story car park.

Odina said that the reconstruction of the terminal is not all of the airport's planned investments. The airport's sustainability strategy until 2030 foresees around 200 different activities, most of them focused on climate neutrality. These include phasing out all diesel and petrol powered transport and switching to either hybrid or electric transport. For example, the biggest purchase at the moment is nine electric buses, which the airport will probably have next year.

Odina reminded that another major project is RIX Airport City, which will be built on the other side of the railway station on a 24-hectare plot of land owned by the airport.

"We want the first phase of work there to finish when the new terminal and station are ready. We would like to have a hotel, offices, entertainment areas, green areas and recreational areas where people can have a pleasant time between flights," the airport head said.

An investor will be attracted and the airport will contribute by making a plot of land available for the project. Odina said that negotiations with the potential investor have started and expressed the hope that a contract could be concluded by the end of the year. However, the negotiations are currently at a stage where no more can be revealed.

Last year Riga Airport handled a total of 5.381 million passengers. The figure is 2.3 times higher than in 2021, but 31 percent less than in 2019.

Riga International Airport is the largest air hub in the Baltic States.