Airports Authority of India or AAI, India’s airports regulator, will invite bids from global engineering and construction firms by October for the Rs1,600 crore expansion and modernization of the Kolkata airport, the country’s fifth busiest airport, with an aim to begin construction as early as the first week of 2008.
The expansion, which includes construction of an integrated domestic and international passenger terminal flanked by modern navigation towers, will increase the passenger capacity of the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Airport five times by 2016.
The airport handles under five million passengers a year—about one-fourth that of Mumbai airport, the country’s busiest aerodrome—and is already saturated.
To speed up the process, AAI plans to float a single tender with the selected developer being responsible for completing the first phase of the project by June 2010. The regulator usually awards modernization projects to multiple developers through several tenders.
“This will reduce time and allow for easier tracking of the work on ground by a single firm rather than monitoring 10 different companies,” said a senior civil aviation ministry official, who did not want to be identified as the tender is yet to be finalized. “The AAI board has given a go ahead after a DPR (detailed project report) was discussed (last fortnight).”
The ministry had earlier decided that AAI would handle Kolkata and Chennai airports and not involve private developers as in the case of airport developments at Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad.
In April, the Union government’s committee on infrastructure, headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, had approved the development plan for the Kolkata airport and wanted it completed “on a priority basis”.
The new project, the official said, is likely to be restricted to specialized construction companies. That could be bad news for airport developers such as the Tata-Changi consortium which had been waiting in the wings.
Most of the planned work involves heavy construction including a terminal costing Rs1,452 crore, 11 aircraft parking bays and taxiways for Rs65 crore, a navigation tower estimated at Rs50 crore and extension of a secondary runaway costing Rs30 crore.
Analysts said the airport, which is currently not on the route maps of South-East Asian airlines that prefer to fly to Bangalore, Chennai and Kochi, could see more traffic given that tech service vendors and back-office firms were setting up shop in the city.
“The increase in traffic is a direct result of the economic activity in the state as you see in Bangalore with IT companies making it a hub. With Wipro Ltd and other IT companies trying to set up a base and the state government pushing for private investment, things will improve,” said Y.S. Shashidhar, vice-president (South Asia & Middle East), with consultancy firm Frost & Sullivan.
The expansion of the Kolkata airport is seen as critical as it is the lone international transit point for travellers to India’s North-East region. The airport sees operations by 12 international airlines and nine domestic airlines. International carriers Nok Air and Air Asia plan to connect Kolkata with South-East Asian cities soon.