Experts Bat For Noida Airport As Minister Promises To Re-Examine Project – Livemint – 13-Nov-2014
November 13, 2014 - Uncategorized
The idea of opening a second international airport in the sprawling national capital region has received the backing of the minister of state for aviation and experts alike on Wednesday as the centre prepares to take a fresh look at a proposal that’s been pending for over a decade. In 2001, the then Uttar Pradesh (UP) chief minister and current Union home minister Rajnath Singh proposed a $10 billion international airport at Greater Noida and a Taj expressway to link Noida with Agra. The expressway flanked by the Formula 1 racing track is functional, but the idea of building an airport at Jewar never took off. On Wednesday, when the new minister of state for aviation Mahesh Sharma, who is from Noida and is considered close to Singh, took charge, he said building an airport at Noida should be made a national project. “The new airport project in Jewar is an important project. It has to be discussed in the wider interest of the nation. The airport is not a project of Mayawati or Mulayam Singh, but of India,” he said, referring to two former chief ministers of UP. Existing rules bar a second airport from coming up within 150 km of a current airport. GMR Infrastructure Ltd is likely to oppose the move due to potential commercial rivalry. On Wednesday, GMR declined to comment on the minister’s statement. To be sure, GMR is not unfamiliar with a two-airports concept. It had invested €90 million in Istanbul’s second airport called the Sabiha Gökçen International Airport in 2008 and sold its stake for €220 million last year. Sharma’s statement clashes with that of aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju, who like GMR, is from Andhra Pradesh; he had said on Monday that he did not see any need for a second airport when asked about the Noida airport project during the announcement of a civil aviation policy in the capital. Experts welcomed Sharma’s statement, saying the 150km rule was meant for radar coverage and is now outdated. “The 150km rule was an ad hoc decision. In (former) civil aviation secretary (M.K.) Kaw’s time, the radar coverage by ANS (air navigation services) was about 175-180 km. So 150km was out on an ad hoc basis so that aircraft would be under coverage,” said former Airports Authority of India (AAI) board member Robey Lal. “That was outdated then and is antiquated now. It had nothing to do with passenger convenience, traffic volumes, airline operating costs, etc.” The Delhi airport would anyway start saturating by the time a new airport in Noida actually starts taking flights, said Kapil Kaul, South Asia chief executive of consulting firm CAPA. “It will take five-seven years (if fast-tracked) for the second airport to become operational. The earliest will be fiscal 2022 and by then the present airport will be closer to its structural capacity,” Kaul said. “Delhi airport in 2022 or later will be a more competitive and perhaps, a very critical airport for the aviation sector with very strong network density and will remain unchallenged even after the second airport becomes operational.” Amber Dubey, partner at KPMG consultancy, however, said that it would be better to make “metro and signal-free road connectivity to the (Delhi) airport than invest in new airports” in the national capital region, as both airports could become unviable. Former AAI chairman V.P. Agrawal disagreed with the view. “This is a sensible decision that must be taken forward to its conclusive end,” he said, adding an entire report had been prepared on the Noida project and submitted to the aviation ministry. The 150km rule, he said, is not “sacrosanct”. It only says that a financial impact assessment on the existing Delhi airport should be carried out when allowing a new airport within 150km of it, he said. Agrawal said all the investments made have already been recovered and the airport is already handling a traffic of about 37 million and by 2027-28 it is expected to cross 60 million. Delhi’s airport was modernised at a cost of nearly Rs.13,000 crore. “It can’t be taken over 70 million. And we are talking of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s smart cities, we need an airport to support the smart city of Noida,” he said. There is already a crisis at the Mumbai airport due to the 150km rule, he added. “The two parties (the minisry and GMR) should sit and decide. If the parties do not agree and there is a difference in interpretation of a certain section, then the interpretation of the contract is to be done by the court,” said former Airports Economic Regulatory Authority (Aera) chairman Yashwant Bhave. “Besides, if Delhi airport is unable to provide desired connectivity, then definitely a second airport has to there. That analysis has to be done by the government and competition commission.” After Wednesday’s development, GMR stock fell 1.96% to Rs.20.05 on BSE as benchmark Sensex gained 0.35% to end at 28,008.90 points.