Russia plans 'Southern hub' for Rostov-on-Don

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A greenfield project to construct a major international gateway to southern Russia has got underway near Rostov-on-Don.

It is estimated that the venture will cost Rb27.4 billion ($900 million). The plan envisages building the airport - designated as the 'Southern hub' - with an annual throughput capacity of 8 million passengers and 70.000t of cargo.

Ahead of the construction, the Rostov regional administration has started buying land at the site, located 30km (18.6 miles) from the city.

It will carry out the project within the framework of a public-private partnership with the industrial investment group Renova, controlled by tycoon billionaire Viktor Vekselberg.

The two sides have set up a dedicated management company, RostovAeroInvest, to handle day-to-day implementation of the plan. Renova owns 75% of the company, with local government holding the rest of the equity.

Renova also has majority stakes in Yekaterinburg, Nizhny Novgorod and Samara airports, which are operated by one of its affiliates.

"Developing the Southern hub is our most ambitious project in terms of construction terms and scale," says its director general Yevgeny Chudnovsky.

He adds that the new gateway is scheduled to be completed over the next three years, and will feature a 4.2km runway along with a high-speed road or light rail link to the city.

The existing Rostov-on-Don airport, which has a 2.5km runway and lies within the city boundaries, will then be closed, says the regional transport ministry.

Last year, the airport saw a 9.3% increase in passenger numbers to 1.87 million, of which 825.000 passengers travelled internationally. Annual traffic is expected to grow 10% in each of the next five years and reach 3 million passengers by 2016.

"Following its completion, the new airport should become a major regional hub giving a boost to economic development in southern Russia," says a ministry spokesman.