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An aerial view of the proposed airport site in Ise Bay;
Tokoname lies on the shore opposite the artificial island and Nagoya at the head of the bay.
Ise Bay as seen from the city of Tokoname on the Chita Peninsula is a picture of tranquility. Container vessels crisscross the waters without hurry, and across the bay in Mie Prefecture rise the peaks of the Suzuka Mountains. About 3 kilometers offshore stands a small structure that marks the planned construction site of the Central Japan International Airport.
The airport, scheduled to open in 2005, will provide the Chubu (central Japan) region, which boasts Japan's highest concentration of industrial activity, a new direct link to the rest of the world. Because of its location roughly in the middle of the Japanese archipelago, the new airport will be readily accessible from anywhere in the country.
It will serve as a gateway to the 2005 World Exposition, to be held in Seto, Aichi Prefecture, in 2005. It will join the New Tokyo International Airport at Narita, which serves the greater Tokyo area, and the Kansai International Airport in the Kinki region as Japan's third international hub, and it is expected to play a big role in the nation's global aviation network.
Central Japan is currently served by Nagoya Airport. Unfortunately, its 2,740-meter runway cannot be extended due to urbanization in the surrounding areas. Demand for additional flights is expanding steadily and is expected to exceed capacity at Nagoya Airport early in the next century.
The Central Japan International Airport will be built offshore on reclaimed land. Site conditions are excellent in Ise Bay near Tokoname. The water is only 2.6 to 8.0 meters deep, and the geological structure of the seabed is strong. Wind direction varies little throughout the year. The first phase of construction calls for the development of a 580-hectare airport island about 3 kilometers offshore. The runway and terminal facilities will cover 470 hectares, while the remaining 110 hectares will be used for regional development.
There will initially be only one 3,500-meter runway, but the airport will be able to operate around the clock thanks to its offshore location. Demand forecasts indicate that the airport will be used by 8 million international passengers and 12 million domestic passengers annually. Construction costs for phase one has been estimated at ¥768 billion. The proposal ultimately calls for the completion of two 4,000-meter parallel runways.
Ease of access will be an important advantage for the airport. President Hirano has confidently declared that it will be the most convenient hub airport in Japan. A combined rail-road bridge will be built to link the island to Tokoname, allowing users to reach the terminal in just 30 minutes from central Nagoya 35 kilometers away via an expressway. A direct rail link to the airport terminal can be built, moreover, simply by extending the existing Meitetsu Tokoname Line by approximately 4.5 kilometers. There are also plans for ferry access from Mie Prefecture on the other side of Ise Bay.
The passenger terminal will adopt a "universal design" for ease of use, even by people with physical disabilities, and the world's most advanced environmental technology will be employed. Because this large-scale project is being approached as a private-sector venture, emphasis will be placed on profitability. For example, the airport will have "swing gates" whose usage can be switched between domestic and international flights. And the terminal building will be designed to facilitate expansion in step with the future growth in demand for aviation services.
Hirano emphasized the importance of competitiveness: "In the twenty-first century there will be no place for airports that cannot compete internationally. We will do everything in our power to reduce construction costs, as they have a direct bearing on airport charges."
To achieve its goal of lower costs and shorter construction time, the Central Japan International Airport Co. is planning to adopt so-called Value Engineering in its procurement process to maximize efficiency. The equipment will be sourced through the Internet, moreover, enabling foreign companies to participate fully in the bidding (http://www.cjiac.co.jp/eng/). The company also plans to establish an evaluation system that will place as much importance on performance and running costs as on the price of equipment. None of these methods have been employed in a large-scale public works project in Japan before. The company's basic procurement policy for the construction project is summed up by the phrase "open and fair."
The private firms that participate in the project will be those that survive a fiercely competitive process. Their knowledge and ingenuity can be counted on to make an important contribution to the construction of the new airport.
(Text by Kimihiro Muraoka)