Thursday, December 07, 2017

If wishes were acres, city would get a second airport

Dum Dum: Calcutta's domestic air traffic will outgrow the current airport in some years but a second one can be built to share the load if the state government provides land, civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said on Tuesday.

"Calcutta needs an alternative airport. This airport is not yet saturated but it will be soon because of the way traffic is growing," Raju said after commissioning a 15MW solar power plant at the airport. "But to build one, we need land. If the state government can provide land, we will build a greenfield airport."

The civil aviation minister specified that the proposed facility would need to be built and run by a private operator. "We will provide the expertise and help the state government get a private party to build and operate it," he said.

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport is owned and run by the Airports Authority of India. Chennai is the only other state-owned airport in a metro.

Bengal needs to arrange land, its main bottleneck, within a reasonable distance from the city to build a new airport. "We are talking about thousands of acres here, based on other airport projects. The new airport in Bangalore is spread over 4,500 acres while the one in Hyderabad spans 5,400 acres," said an official in the civil aviation ministry.

State government officials admitted that finding thousands of acres for an airport near the city would be a problem. They recommended Andal, near Durgapur, as the potential second airport that minister Raju said Calcutta would need.

But Andal is almost 200km away, and airlines have not shown any interest so far in operating out of there. "If airlines want to use Andal, there is no problem. But they have to show interest," the civil aviation minister said.

So, how quickly would the city airport need backing up? Officials said growth in domestic flight operations rather than passenger volumes would test the airport. "We have land to build another terminal. Operations can be extended to the old domestic building as well. But the capacity of the runways and parking bays will saturate," airport director Atul Dixit said.
07/12/17 Telegraph