December 31, 2008

Rs.16-bn upgrade of Kolkata airport launched

Kolkata, Dec 29 : Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel Monday set the ball rolling for a Rs.16-billion modernisation of the international airport here, which will include a new terminal, modern taxiways and extension of a runway so that it can handle the giant Airbus A-380 aircraft.

The modernisation project, the foundation stone for which was laid by West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, is targeted for completion by May 2011.The project launch was attended by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechuri.

The upgrade will raise the airport’s handling capacity to around 20 million passengers annually from 4.9 million now - 4.06 million of whom are domestic and the remaining 882,000 are international air travellers.

In his address at the inauguration function, Patel said the Airports Authority of India (AAI) will not borrow a single rupee for modernisation of the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport. ‘Investment will come from internal resources,’ the aviation minister said.

Patel said 35 airports would come up at non-metro cities, which will be completed by 2009-end, and added that a ‘world class’ airport will be opened at Srinagar next month. The minister said 20 more airports, including those at Kolkata and Chennai, will be upgraded on an investment of Rs.120 billion.

Turning to the proposed airport at Andal in West Bengal’s Burdwan district, Patel said: ‘When the airport comes up there, it will be the government’s first airport under the Greenfield Airport Policy’. Emphasising the need for the revamp at Kolkata airport, Bhattacharjee said it was essential for enhancing business relations with South East Asian countries.

Following the modernisation plans of Mumbai and Delhi airports, Kolkata airport was supposed to have been upgraded in a public-private-partnership (PPP) basis. But Patel had to shelve the plan in the face of stiff opposition from the Left parties. The modernisation work is now being done on a cash and contract basis. Delhi and Mumbai airports modernisation works are done by private consortiums led respectively by companies such as GMR and GVK.

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