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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Novosibirsk Tries to Cut Air Travelers' Trips

Itar-TassWorkers maintaining a plane at Tolmachyovo in February. The airport wants to be a stopover between Europe and the Asia-Pacific.
NOVOSIBIRSK, Western Siberia -- A traveler flying between Europe and Asian-Pacific destinations such as Japan, Thailand and Australia could one day make a stopover in western Siberia -- and shave some 2 1/2 hours off his trip.

That is the grand plan that the government has for Tolmachyovo Airport in Novosibirsk, which, from its location in the heart of Russia, offers a more direct flight path to Europe for transit passengers than the routes airlines now typically take through the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East or northern Europe.

A state tender commission last week picked an international consortium to draw up and implement an eight-year expansion and modernization program to tap into that transit passenger flow.

"If we want to attract the passengers now flying over the Middle East, we have to comply with international standards," said Mikhail Antonov, deputy director of the Russian consulting company PACC, one of the members of the consortium.

"Tolmachyovo is a project with good prospects, given the plans to turn it into a transit hub between Southeast Asia and Europe," he said.

The consortium's other participants are German construction management giant Obermeyer Planen + Beraten, and two more Russian consulting companies, Vneshaudit and Univers Audit.

Vneshaudit has been working for a long time with Aeroflot and Sheremetyevo Airport. PACC's recent airport projects include consulting work for the Rostov-on-Don and Perm airports. Obermeyer's recent projects included the Munich and Hamburg airports. It is currently in negotiations with several airports in Russia.

"We selected this consortium as it presented the best technical and financial proposals," said Alexander Borodin, chairman of Tolmachyovo Airport and head of the Property Ministry's transportation department.

He said the contract with the consortium will be signed by next week, and the draft of a concept for the airport is expected to be ready within three months.

The tender was called two months ago and about 20 companies made bids, said Darya Dolotenkova, head of the Institute of Professional Auditors, which helped oversee the judging. Bidders included Deloitte & Touche Regional Consulting Service Ltd. and PricewaterhouseCoopers Audit, she said.

"We spoke to all the parties and tried to take into account everybody's interests," Dolotenkova said. "We are looking at developing the airport as a business and not just reconstructing its existing terminals. The consultants have to draw up a number of development alternatives and decide whether it is better for the airport to reconstruct its terminals or build a new one."

The winning consortium must also determine the cost of the project and help the airport find an investor, she said.

Borodin said the consortium would need to make a recommendation on privatizing part of the government's 51 percent stake in the airport. He said up to 13 percent could be sold.

Located 17 kilometers west of downtown Novosibirsk, Tolmachyovo airport has a 40-year-old terminal for domestic flights that can handle 600 passengers per hour. Its international terminal, built in 1998, has a capacity for 450 passengers an hour.

The airport has one working runway; a second one is half built.

Flying through Novosibirsk would take an average of 2 1/2 hours off the flight time of transit passengers who make at least one stopover between the Asian-Pacific and Europe, said Russia's second-largest airline Sibir, which accounts for more than half of Tolmachyovo Airport's traffic.

Tolmachyovo serviced just more than a million passengers last year.

The International Aviation Transport Association predicts passenger traffic between the two regions will grow to 57.8 million people in 2010, from 30.1 million in 2000. It said 40 percent of those travelers currently make transfers in the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East or northern Europe.

Sibir, which leases a 50-hectare plot of land beside the airport, has been in talks with Western consultants, including Obermeyer, on Tolmachyovo's development.

Sibir signed a protocol agreement with a consortium of Obermeyer, the Munich airport and the Max Bogl construction company to draw up a separate development plan earlier this month. Sibir is considering building a new terminal with a capacity of up to 5 million passengers per year on its plot of land and completing the construction of the second runway. The airline estimates the project will cost $150 million to $250 million.

"We initiated this project, and at the start the two projects were separate," Sibir deputy director Mikhail Koshman said. "But now the positions of Tolmachyovo and Sibir are converging, which is very positive since a compromise will make it easier to attract investment."

Volker Wagenknecht, Obermeyer's deputy head for the Eastern European market, said the Sibir and Tolmachyovo projects could be combined to the airport's advantage.