Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Poor planning grounds Chennai airport’s high-flying plans

Chennai:   A few days ago, former WHO chief scientist Dr Sowmya Swaminathan landed at Chennai airport and took a metro rail train to the city. She posted on social media: “Taking the clean, efficient and environmentally friendly Chennai Metro from the airport. Need to improve access from domestic terminal to Metro station, especially for people with luggage.”

Like her, several people take to social media almost daily to suggest that facilities can be better. The Airports Authority of India (AAI) is taking ad hoc steps but there will be no permanent solutions in the near future because of the way the terminals, multi-level car parking, space for pick-up and drop of passengers, connection to airport metro station were planned and designed around 15years ago, with no user inputs.

With the proposed airport at Parandur likely to take at least 10 years, passengers will have to live with the constraints. The number of passengers has touched around 50,000 a day and the number of flights 400 a day, at par with pre-Covid levels, but the airport is not able to cash in.

Airlines prefer to start new routes — the muchneeded direct flights to the US and Australia — from Bengaluru. The airport is suffering because one mistake led to another, said a former airport official. AAI has already spent `4,000 crore – `2,000 crore for the terminals commissioned in 2013 and another `2,000 crore for new ones being built – to modernize and boost passenger capacity from 20 million to 30 million.

Mohan Chandramouli, a retired airlines official who served at Chennai airport, said AAI had been doing quick-fixes without a vision. “It left everything to field officials with limited expertise.” The airport didn’t ensure buildings (at Manapakkam and Kolapakkam) complied with NOC norms though the second runway was extended 12 years ago.

“They are asking residents now to demolish obstacles.” “Pilots, airlines or safety experts were not involved in design and planning. AAI is resorting to trial and error methods. The international arrival terminal with one baggage ramp into the basement for arrival and departure baggage is shortsighted.”

25/01/23 V Ayyappan/Times of India

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