It cost more than a $1 billion, took eight years of construction and demanded 3.3 million man hours from 3,700 Australians – but yesterday Brisbane Airport’s new runway was completed under the eerie quiet of a coronavirus lockdown.
The project will slowly double the hub’s passenger numbers from 23.4 million to more than 50 million by 2040, increasing daily flights to 110 aircraft movements an hour.
BAC chief executive Gert-Jan de Graaff said, “The last few months have been difficult for everyone in the aviation and travel industries, as well as the whole community, but we have never lost sight of the fact that this project has been built for the long term. It will serve us well for many decades to come.”
Already, its new capacity is being touted by the state government as an incentive for a reborn Virgin Australia to remain in Brisbane.
Last week, de Graaff told reporters that his city had room to grow “in spades” compared with rivals Melbourne and Sydney.
“With a new runway opening in July, Brisbane Airport will be the only non-capacity constrained, curfew free capital city airport in the country,” he said.
The project was conceived 15 years ago and its construction was a joint venture between BMD Constructions and CPB Contractors.
At its peak, 650 people were on-site in mid-2019 and 324 subcontractors were hired, with around 90 per cent based in south-east Queensland. In total, the state reclaimed 11 million cubic metres of sand from Moreton Bay as part of the works.
“In many respects, this runway is symbolic of the very firm belief we have that aircraft will, in the not too distant future, return to the skies and our terminals will once again be full of happy people looking forward to visiting their families, their holidays or to travel to do business,” said de Graaff.
“As we reach this historic milestone, I must commend the entire New Runway team for putting their heart and souls into this project over the last 15 years. Every step of the way the BAC team has been supported by many partners, suppliers and contractors who have contributed to this project. This truly is a project built by the community for the community.
“This new runway is so much more than asphalt; it is an enabler for recovery and growth across all facets of business, with an estimated 7,800 new jobs created by 2035 and an additional $5 billion in annual economic benefit to the region.”
Project director Graeme Fenemore said, “I am extremely proud to be handing over Brisbane’s new runway ahead of program, on budget and with an exemplary safety record of zero lost-time injuries.”
In early April, Brisbane Airport brought forward the decommissioning of a cross runway to create additional parking space for grounded aircraft.
The move was among a number of measures undertaken to help airlines store unused planes, including creating 10 dedicated parking zones, accommodating 100 aircraft free of charge and facilitating bays being switched back on when needed.
The airport has pledged it will “keep the lights on and the front door to Queensland open” despite operating a heavily reduced service.