ATHENS, May 31 (Reuters) - Greek construction group GEK TERNA and India's GMR Infrastructure hope to start building a new 850 million euro ($950.90 million) airport on Crete early next year, a source from GEK TERNA said on Wednesday.
Greece on Tuesday awarded the contract to the Greek/Indian joint venture, which was the sole bidder. It will build the airport via a private-public partnership and operate it for 37 years, subject to regulatory approval.
Athens has made several attempts since 2010 to build a new airport at Kasteli on Crete to replace the existing airport at Heraklion, Greece's second largest. But the country's seven-year debt crisis has made it difficult to attract investors.
"We hope we can start construction works at the beginning of 2018, if all the necessary procedures move fast," an official at GEK TERNA told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
The cost for building the airport is estimated at 480 million euros with the state offering 180 million euros to acquire a 46 percent stake in the airport. The joint venture will own the rest. The total investment is 850 million euros.
In a country with an unemployment rate at 23 percent, the highest in the euro zone, the project is expected to create 1,000 jobs throughout its 5-year construction time and 500 permanent ones once it is up and running.
The concession needs to be approved by a Greek court of auditors and parliament before the joint venture starts work on the project. ($1 = 0.8939 euros) (Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou. Editing by Jane Merriman)