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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 September 2006, 05:24 GMT 06:24 UK
Thailand opens huge new airport
A flight takes off from Suvarnabhumi airport
The airport can handle 45m passengers a year
Thousands of passengers have passed through Thailand's new international airport on its opening day.

Despite fears of initial problems, correspondents say the first day seems to be going smoothly, although there are some delays in baggage-handling.

Suvarnabhumi airport was first planned 45 years ago, and completed by recently ousted PM Thaksin Shinawatra.

Mr Thaksin was not present at the opening. He is in London, having been overthrown in last week's coup.

Thailand hopes its new airport will boost the country's vital tourist industry, and make Bangkok a regional transport centre to rival Hong Kong and Singapore.

The $4bn airport, the largest in South East Asia, is capable of handling 76 flights per hour and 45 million passengers per year.

Passengers in the new airport
The airport boasts the largest passenger terminal in the world
The opening of Suvarnabhumi has been fraught with delays and political interference since it was first planned.

It was an important project for Mr Thaksin's administration, but it was blighted by allegations of corruption during its construction, and claims that it was being opened before it was ready.

There were fears that last week's coup would lead to further delays in opening of the new building.

But the coup leaders were quick to back the airport, which was designed by the architect Helmut Jahn, and the change of government appears to have had little impact on the airport's first day.

Despite some delays in handing baggage, no major problems were reported.

By 0900 (0300 GMT) more than 100 flights had landed and taken off successfully.

"For the first day, it's pretty good. I thought there would be a lot more confusion," Australian tourist Stephen Gordon told the Associated Press.

Suvarnabhumi - which means Golden Land - is about 30km (20 miles) east of Bangkok.

A 28km (17 mile) rail link to connect the airport with central Bangkok is scheduled for completion in November 2007.

Thailand's airport authority says the new building boasts the world's largest single terminal building, at 563,000 sq m, as well as the tallest control tower.




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