UK firm lands lead role on world’s largest airport

29 February 2024
The plans for King Salman International airport involve building an airport that can accommodate 120 million passengers by 2030


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UK-based Mace has won the delivery partner role on the world’s largest airport project, the King Salman International airport (KSIA) scheme in Riyadh.

MEED reported in November last year that international firms were competing for the role. 

Delivery partner roles typically involve assisting the project client with the development of the project. This includes project management, design management, cost consulting and procurement advice.

Mace has extensive experience on airport projects and has worked on London’s Heathrow airport for over 30 years. In 2023, it was appointed as the delivery partner on three major infrastructure improvement projects at Heathrow.

For KSIA, Foster + Partners, also based in the UK, won the competition to design the masterplan. The architectural firm is now working on the concept designs for the airport’s buildings, while US-based Jacobs is working on the infrastructure design for the airport.

The project covers an area of about 57 square kilometres, allowing for six parallel runways, and will include the existing terminals at King Khalid International airport (KKIA). It will also include 12 sq km of airport support facilities, residential and recreational facilities, retail outlets and other logistics real estate. It is the largest airport project in the world, according to GlobalData.

If the project is completed on time in 2030, it will become the world’s largest operating airport in terms of passenger capacity.

The airport aims to accommodate up to 120 million passengers by 2030 and 185 million by 2050. For cargo, the goal is to process 3.5 million tonnes a year by 2050.

There were contract awards for construction work at KKIA last year. In June, a joint venture of Turkiye’s IC Ictas and the local Al Rashid Trading & Contracting was awarded the contract to complete the renovation of Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. The joint venture finished renovating terminals 3 and 4 earlier this year.

Aviation strategy

Saudi Arabia plans to invest $100bn in its aviation sector. Riyadh’s Saudi Aviation Strategy, announced by the General Authority of Civil Aviation (Gaca), envisages tripling Saudi Arabia’s annual passenger traffic to 330 million travellers by 2030.

It also aims to increase air cargo traffic to 4.5 million tonnes and raise the country’s total air connections to more than 250 destinations. 

Global industry

The global airport projects pipeline, as tracked by GlobalData, is worth $580.4bn, slightly less than the $588.4bn pipeline recorded in Q4 2023.

The global pipeline is dominated by projects in the advanced stages of development, with 78.2% of projects in the pre-execution and execution phases. This amounts to $453.7bn in total value.

Of this amount, $329bn is in the execution stage and $124.7bn is in the pre-execution stages of design, tender, and engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) award. Projects in the early stages account for a relatively small share, with 21.8% of the pipeline by value, reflecting projects in the pre-planning stage (announcement and study) and planning stages.

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