Sharjah’s Department of Civil Aviation plans to tender a contract to build a new runway at Sharjah International Airport by the end of 2010.

The runway is still being designed and according to sources involved in the project, will be about 4 kilometres long. It will replace the existing runway at the airport, which will be used as an area for planes to taxi and as a back-up runway when the new runway needs maintenance work.

The existing runway is 30 years old and needs upgrading to accommodate the rise in traffic levels at the airport since local budget airline Air Arabia was formed in 2003.

According to the aviation authority, about 5.3 million passengers used the airport in 2008 and there were 60,813 aircraft movements. This is compared to 1 million passengers and 2,274 aircraft movements in 2002.

Designs are also being prepared to expand the main terminal building, but these plans are in the early stages and the new runway is regarded as the main priority. UK-based Halcrow is the consultant.

In 2005, Saudi Binladin Group won a AED227m ($62m) contract to redevelop and expand the airport. The contract involved a concourse, air bridges, three gates, arrival and departure areas, an expanded duty-free area, check-in areas, and a 150-vehicle car park adjacent to the arrivals area (MEED 7:1:09).