Airport operator mulls stake in rail link project

Airport operator mulls stake in rail link project

Bangalore: The company building a new international airport in Bangalore, Bangalore International Airport Ltd (Bial), will pick up an equity stake in a proposed elevated mass transit rail network to transfer passengers from the airport to the city, according to Albert Brunner, chief executive officer of Bial. 

Delhi Metro Rail Corp. Ltd, the company that carried out the Metro rail project in the national Capital, last month submitted a proposal to the Karnataka government to build a 33.41km elevated transit train system, to connect the city centre to the airport.

However, the cost of building the rail link has not yet been disclosed.

“We are willing to contribute (equity), furthermore we are ready to build the infrastructure for the rail link at our place," said Brunner. “We don’t have the overall cost of the project and how much we will pick up."

He added that all the shareholders have agreed to the proposed investment.

Bial is the holding company of a consortium led bySiemens Projects Ventures, a German infrastructure company, Larsen & Toubro Ltd, India’s largest engineering company, and Unique Zurich Airport, which operates the international airport at Zurich, Switzerland. Together, these companies hold a 74% stake inthe project. The Karnataka government and the Airports Authority of India hold a minority stake of 13% each inthe holding company.

An official of the Karnataka infrastructure department said the project proposal has tobe placed before the government ahead of deciding whether equity could be injected by Bial. It is a five-year project, said the official, who did not want to be named as he was not authorized to speak tothe media.

The airport, which will open in March, is expected to handle more than 10 million passengers in its first year. It takes up to 90 minutes for a car to travel the 35km route to the airport from city centre.

The road until Hebbal flyover, the outskirts from where the national highway to the airport begins, is being expanded to ease traffic movement. But a 21km, dedicated six-lane expressway planned to connect the airport has been delayed by over a year andbids are yet to be called forthe project.

The existing airport is owned by the public sector defence aircraft maker, HindustanAeronautics Ltd, and it will cease to handle all commercial flights once the new airportis operational, according toa concession agreement between Bial and the Union government.

Bial will invest Rs500 crore over the next year for expanding the airport, including new aircraft parking stands, building a new trumpet flyover from the highway and additional office space for the airlines. “We have already begun the ground work on expansion, it will complete by August," said Brunner.

The Rs1,930 crore project is being built on a 4,000-acre plot at Devanahalli, 35km north of Bangalore, and is the first public-private airport venture in the country.