Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Civil Aviation (Gaca) has received 49 requests for prequalification so far for the SR5.6bn ($1.5bn) expansion of Medina airport.

The requests have come from both individual firms and consortiums, says Alaa Samman, Gaca’s project manager for Medina airport. Gaca invited firms to submit prequalification documents for the kingdom’s first airport to be carried out on a public-private partnership (PPP) basis in March (MEED 8:3:10).

Gaca also outlined the scheduled timeframe of the project at a meeting with interested parties, including contractors, banks and legal bodies held in Dubai on 7 April. The local Saudi Binladin Group, local Almabani General Contractors, Athens-based Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC), the local Al-Rajhi, and France’s BNP Paribas were among companies who attended the presentation.

The deadline for request for prequalification is 18 April with the request for proposal to be issued at the end of May. Final bids are expected to be issued in October with the winning bidder to be awarded the contract in December.

The successful bidder will have to design, finance, build and operate Medina airport for a concession period of 25 years.

Phase one of the expansion will take place from 2011 to 2014, and will involve building a new terminal, extending the existing runway and building an apron and taxiway. This will increase capacity at the airport to eight million passengers a year from the current four million.

Medina airport recorded passenger traffic of 4.1 million in 2009, a 20 per cent increase over traffic recorded in 2008. Due to the annual hajj period and umrah, traffic in Medina is much more constant than seen in other airports in the kingdom.

Once phase one is complete, all passenger traffic will go through the new terminal.

Phase two of the expansion will take place between 2021 and 2024, and will involve the possible construction of a new runway. Phase two will be executed according to demand and will further increase capacity to 14 million passengers a year.

The execution of phase two could drive the cost of the expansion up to $2.4bn.

The International Finance Corporation, the private investment arm of Washington-based World Bank, is the lead financial adviser on the project.

Denmark’s Cowi is the technical adviser.