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Centre in talks with TN Govt for 2nd airport in Chennai

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The Centre is in talks with the Tamil Nadu government for a second airport in Chennai needed by 2030-2035 to decongest the present one, Airports Authority of India (AAI) chairman Guruprasad Mohapatra said. Civil aviation secretary R N Choubey and AAI officials have held two meetings with the state government in the last three months to discuss the issue. “Eighteen months ago, we were handling 28 movements per hour (at Chennai) and after making improvements in our air navigation system, we hope to reach 40. With this, we expect we will be managing Chennai till 2030 or 2035. But a city like Chennai will definitely require a second airport thereafter,” Mohapatra said.

According to a study carried out by aviation think-tank Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA), Chennai handled 18.4 million passengers in 2016 and is expected to reach its maximum capacity of 23-26 million by 2020, if traffic grows at an estimated rate of 12.5 per cent. CAPA is of the view that capacity enhacement at Chennai airport could be challenging due to airside (hangars, runway, parking bays) constraints. The think-tank estimates an expenditure of US$ 500 million for a second airport in Chennai.

Mohapatra said that a decision will be taken later on whether the second airport will be a greenfield airport (new airport on unsused land) developed on public-private partnership (PPP) model, or whether it will be developed by the AAI. If it is approved, Chennai will be the third city in the country to have a second airport.

Mumbai and Delhi are the two metropolitan cities for which the government has approved a second airport. The much-delayed Navi Mumbai airport project was formally awarded to the GVK group last month by the Maharashtra government. The airport will be developed on PPP model and the state government claims that it will be ready by 2019.

The Centre also approved a proposal for setting up an airport in Jewar in Greater Noida earlier this year to help reduce congestion at the Delhi international airport. It is likely to be operational in the next five to six years.

Another city that will need a second airport is Kolkata and the West Bengal government has suggested the Durgapur airport as an option; but Mohapatra added that Durgapur is at a fair distance from Kolkata and many airlines have not shown interest in the airport so far and, therefore, the Centre has asked the state government to explore another location.

The Centre is also exploring land pool model of infrastructure development as an alternative to land acquisition. “That is the way forward to plan airports in the future,” the AAI chairman said.

The civil aviation ministry has proposed this model to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for developing new airports in the state.