Lithuania considered the idea of building a new airport last year but the new guidelines for the strategic plan on the development of Lithuanian airports no longer contain that idea.
Lithuania's government estimates that around 700 million euros will be invested into the expansion of the airports in Vilnius, Kaunas and Palanga by 2028. The country plans to continue having a network of three international airports.
"The finances show that these projects will need around 700 million euros, and the construction of a new airport would cost almost 1.3 billion euros. (...) It doesn't mean, however, Lithuania will not get back to that idea in the long-term," the minister said on Tuesday after presenting the guidelines to the Cabinet.
During the reconstruction of the runway at Vilnius Airport, discussions were started on possible construction of a new airport. Consultants from the Netherlands' InterVistas Consulting, hired by state-run airport operator Lietuvos Oro Uostai (Lithuanian Airports), are now looking into this possibility and plan to finish their analysis in the fall.
According to Masiulis, the government will decide by the end of this year whether the state-run airport operator will have to implement expansion plans on its own and borrow the necessary funds or a concession company will be looked for.
"Lithuania has three airports and they are exceeding their capabilities already and need investment," the minister said.
"Vilnius, Kaunas and Palanga Airports might be expanded based on the modular principle in the future, if needed, to ensure continuous operation of these airports without any inconveniences for passengers and airlines," Masiulis.
Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis stressed the need to build integrated transport infrastructure when expanding the airports.
"The expansion concept for the airports is being coordinated with the construction of the European-gauge railway Rail Baltica. The airports and Lietuvos Geležinkeliai (Lithuanian Railways) have not had a joint project so far. But only an integrated transport system will increase Lithuania's competitiveness in the region," the prime minister said in the statement.
Vilnius Airport plans to finish the reconstruction of the departure and arrival terminals by 2028. A new passenger terminal is set to be built in Kaunas and it will be integrated with the Rail Baltica railway line as an underground railway station will be built. This transport hub should be operational by 2026.
"This way we will have an airport in Kaunas, meeting all Western standards, and it will be convenient to use," the minister said.
Vilnius Airport will not be connected to the Rail Baltica railway. Its runway was reconstructed last summer and the reconstruction of the departure terminal was started in March.
The three airports are forecast to service over 6 million passengers this year, compared to 5.245 million last year, 10 percent more than in 2016.
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