Five towns that are being added to India’s airport map
The first phase of India’s regional airport expansion
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With several new regional airlines starting operations in India, the government’s new aviation policy, as reported by Mint, involves greater connectivity, especially for citizens living in smaller towns and cities. The plan includes encouraging low-cost airports and regional airlines that service such airports.
The Airports Authority of India (AAI) in September last year announced that it would be building 50 such low-cost, no-frills airports, “with a modular concept,” which it says will “incorporate all the basic and essential infrastructure, thereby reducing the overall operating and service cost of operations for the airlines.”
Last month, AAI opened the Kadapa airport in Andhra Pradesh. The new airport, built at a cost of Rs.42 crore, has a compact prefabricated terminal building and can handle 100 peak-hour passengers at a time.
Out of the 50 such low-cost airports that are being developed by the AAI, here are the towns where new airports will be built in the first phase.
Located in western Odisha, the airfield, according to a report in The New Indian Express, was “used during World War II by Allied Forces to counter Japanese advances and since then, it has been lying abandoned.” The airport is a joint venture between the Odisha government and the AAI, with the primary intent of connecting western Odisha with the rest of the state, and nearby states like West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh.
Besides Jharsuguda, the other airports in the region (western Odisha) include Rourkela and Sambalpur. The development of the airport, according to reports, will be done in two phases. In the first phase, where the AAI is due to invest around Rs80 crore, the priority would be to renovate the airport and make it fit for operation for smaller aircraft (15-30 seaters).
The second phase, however, involves a plan to convert it into a full-fledged airport, with a new terminal and air traffic control tower. Once completed, Jharsuguda will have Odisha’s second major airport after the Biju Patnaik International Airport in Bhubaneswar. The total cost of the project is expected to be around Rs. 175 crore.
Currently, the Jharsuguda airport serves three charter airline companies in the region—Spirit Air, JAC Air and Air Odisha.
Tezu (Arunachal Pradesh)
The Tezu airport in Arunachal Pradesh was approved in 2009-10 at a cost of Rs. 79 crore, with an intention of making it operational by March 2012. However, it missed the deadline and is now scheduled to be completed by January 2016. The project faced multiple delays because of protests by local residents. Currently, the airstrip at Tezu is served by charter airlines, primary by officials and VIPs. Besides Tezu, the government is building five other airports in Arunachal Pradesh, a state which shares its borders with China.
Among the five airports to be developed by the AAI, the Hubli airport serves the twin-cities of Hubli and Dharwad in northern Karnataka. The plan to upgrade the Hubli airport was first approved in 2005 and after much delay, in January 2013, the government of Karnataka and the AAI signed a memorandum of understanding to develop the airport.
Reports say the AAI intends to upgrade the existing infrastructure, and turn the airport into an all-weather one at a cost of Rs. 1.6 billion. The state government in 2012 acquired nearly 600 acres and handed it over to the AAI. The upgradation includes an expansion of the airfield to 615 acres, and the runway to 7,500ft. The development of the Hubli airport also includes efforts to make it capable of handling larger passenger aircrafts like the Boeing 737 and Airbus 320/321.
The airport serves two airlines, including Air Pegasus and TruJet, a regional airline which was launched earlier this month.
The Belgaum-Sambra or Belagavi Airport, as its known, is known to be one of the oldest airports in northern Karnataka. The airport had earlier shut down its operations in November 2011 because of multiple incidents of flight cancellations. Flights to Belgaum resumed a year later. The airport saw a phase of upgradation, where the terminal building, security zone and check-in counters and other facilities were upgraded along with parking facility for 50 cars, according to news reports. Currently, the airport connects two cities—Bengaluru and Mumbai through SpiceJet, the only airline which operates in the Belgaum airport. Belgaum is also the second capital of Karnataka.
Located near Ajmer, the project for the Kishangarh airport was launched in September 2013, when the then prime minister Manmohan Singh laid the foundation stone. Interestingly, as a Times of India report says, the idea for an airport in Kishangarh was first floated by former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi who, during a visit to Ajmer “showed concern over the fact that the city where thousands of devotees come daily does not have an airport.”
The 441.7 acre project, expected to cost nearly Rs. 161 crore, became a reality after the Rajasthan government acquired nearly 382.72 acres and handed it over to the AAI in 2013. The original deadline for the completion of the airport was June 2016, but protests over land acquisition from locals, coupled with fears of internal displacement, have delayed the project further. During the initial stages, the Kishangarh airport will connect Ajmer with capital New Delhi and Mumbai.