Sunday, October 15, 2017

Tamil Nadu airport expansions: in search of a second wind

In less than a decade, India will replace the United Kingdom as the third largest aviation market transporting 278 million passengers every year, the International Air Transport Association says. Time and again, this body has reiterated the need for the intelligent expansion of airports, as in the sterling case of Singapore’s Changi facility.

Closer home, the State government has chalked out expansion plans for various cities, including Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai and Tiruchi. Of these, Chennai airport’s Phase I modernisation plan seems like a complete letdown with a host of infrastructure issues.

Four years after the completion of Phase I, the terminals are bursting at the seams with about 30,000 passengers travelling every day. The situation is especially bad during early mornings and late nights with the terminal choked with serpentine queues. Though services have marginally improved, there is quite a long way to go, passengers say. This has highlighted the need for the immediate implementation of Phase II after which as many as 30 million passengers can use the facilities.

Officials say that though the final nod for the project is yet to arrive from the Airports Authority of India (AAI), they will begin the safety inspection for the project soon. The phase II project has been planned in such a way as to give the terminals an integrated look. “It may take four years to complete and we will carry out this construction in two phases. We have carefully planned the work to ensure passengers don’t face any inconvenience,” an official says. The first phase will be over by January 2020 and the second by July 2021 and together, it will be open for operations by September 2021.

With Tanjore paintings, murals and statues, the airport’s facade will significantly change for the better, officials say. But these are just the aesthetics. Functional conveniences are miles away.

“We want to make sure there are no infrastructural issues, such as the breaking of glass panels or the collapse of false ceilings. We will ensure the toilets can be easily maintained,” another official says.
14/10/17 Sunitha Sekar/The Hindu

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