Saturday, August 23, 2014

Boosting connections in Brunei Darussalam

In the run-up to Asean Economic Community integration in 2015, Brunei Darussalam is ramping up transport developments, chasing new opportunities and re-establishing past connections.

With the potential for a boost in inter-Asean travel, the Sultanate is working to position itself as an intermediary for business and leisure travellers.

Isolated by the sea, Brunei Darussalam is cut off from access to both the Trans-Asian Railway and the Asean Highway Networks, which is spurring the authorities to improve air and maritime connectivity, externally, while expanding internal road connections.

In its ‘Global Competitiveness Report 2013 to 2014’, the World Economic Forum (WEF) ranked Brunei Darussalam 49th out of 148 countries for the standard of its seaports, jumping eight places year-on-year, and 55th in terms of the competitiveness of its air services infrastructure, an improvement of six places.

Taking off

Most recently, Royal Brunei Airlines announced it would reinstate its route to Ho Chi Minh City.

The route, which was cut in October 2011, has regained importance as passenger numbers to Vietnam jumped 15 per cent in 2013. The airline announced in August it plans to run four round-trip flights a week starting in October.

The move is one of several efforts to increase air traffic with regional partners. Royal Brunei announced its order of seven A320neo aircraft in mid-August, due for delivery in 2018, saying that the planes were specifically intended to reduce fuel costs and serve potential new routes to Australia.

According to the airline, the A320neo uses 17 per cent less fuel than the A320s currently in use, and with Brisbane, Perth and Darwin just a few hours’ flying time away, the company is confident demand will rise.

With the increased passenger numbers, extensions to the Brunei International Airport are seeing timely completion.

The US$150 million upgrade process, which is expected to finish later this year, is set to double passenger handling capacity at the airport to three million and will include new arrival and departure areas, luggage handling facilities and expanded parking.