Modi Keen On Second Airports, Ensure Connectivity With Metro Rail
New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked the civil aviation ministry to look at building second airports in some cities and ensure that major airports are on the metro rail networks of their respective cities, according to two government officials familiar with the matter. The ministry has, in turn, asked the state-owned Airports Authority of India (AAI) to study the capacity of airports across India, the two added, asking not to be named. The aviation ministry has also initiated discussions with the ministries of urban development and railways (the two ministries are responsible for metro projects across India). The New Delhi and Kolkata airports are currently the only ones on the metro networks of the respective cities. Airport and aviation expert Robey Lal, a former member of the board of AAI said the move is well-timed. “As a rule of thumb, a second runway is required by the time passenger demand reaches 25 million per annum, and a secondary airport by the time it is 40 million per annum,” Lal said. Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore will definitely need a secondary airport in the next 10-15 years, he added. Typically a new metro airport takes at least 15 years from conceptualization to commissioning it if all goes well, he said. India is projected to be the third-largest aviation market by 2020, handling 336 million domestic and 85 million international passengers, according to the civil aviation ministry, which estimates that investments to the tune of $120 billion will be needed to do this. Both New Delhi and Mumbai need second airports. Work on Mumbai’s second airport at Navi Mumbai has proceeded in a stuttering fashion, largely due to issues related to land acquisition. New Delhi’s second airport was expected to come up in Jewar in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, but this plan was abandoned after a change in government in the state in 2012; the new government wasn’t keen on Jewar. The aviation ministry could ask AAI to, as part of its study, to identify possible locations for Delhi’s second airport. The eventual decision will also rest with the concerned state government, Haryana if the airport is in Gurgaon or its environs, and Uttar Pradesh if it is in and around Noida or Greater Noida. Delhi itself doesn’t have space enough for a second airport. To be sure, existing agreements with the private airport operators at the redeveloped New Delhi and Mumbai airports, the GMR group and the GVK group, respectively, will mean that these entities have the first right of refusal on developing the second airports in these cities. The spokespersons of GVK and GMR declined to comment. “A govt policy on multi-airport system is needed. Dealing with sharing of traffic, tariffs applicable, management systems—common like in New York/New Jersey, or Paris, or independent like in San Francisco and Oskland,” Lal said. The government has granted its approval for the creation of 15 new airports, four each in Maharashtra and Karnataka, two in Kerala and one each in West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Sikkim, Puducherry and Uttar Pradesh. There are 31 airports in the country that are not in use and the government is encouraging airlines to use these. Lal said that the government should also use as many airports as it can for international flights. He explained that the draft civil aviation policy scheduled to be announced in January suggests that only six airports be considered as hubs for international traffic, with airlines using a hub-and-spoke arrangement to connect to other airports. “If implemented this would actually bring about congestion in the airports, runway, aprons, and terminals and airspace, sooner than later,” he said, adding that the fact that four of the six are operated by private companies (Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, and Hyderabad) seems to indicate that “private airport operators are trying to corner, international and related domestic air traffic.” That’s a “backward step,” he said.