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All set for Chennai, Kolkata airport modernisation take-off

Ashwini Phadnis

The expenditure on modernising the Chennai and Kolkata airports is estimated at Rs 5,700 crore from 2008-09 to 2013-14.

The Centre's decision to complete consultations with the governments of Tamil Nadu and West Bengal within the next three months for firming up the model to be followed for the modernisation of the airports in Chennai and Kolkata could probably not have come at a more opportune time.

The latest official data show that in the case of Chennai alone the number of passengers handled by the airport is set to gradually rise from the 5.63 million in 2004-05 to 7.55 million in 2007-08 and peak at 8.91 million by 2009-10.

Similarly for Kolkata the projections are that the airport would handle 4.18 million passengers during 2006-07 up from 3.49 million during 2004-05. This figure would rise to 4.85 million by 2008-09 before peaking at 5.22 million during 2009-10. The data show that in both Chennai and Kolkata the domestic passengers handled by them would outnumber international passengers up to 2009-10.

In the case of Chennai, during 2006-07 the airport is expected to handle more than 2.90 million international passengers while the number of domestic passengers handled by it is expected to cross 4.05 million. The following year the airport is expected to handle 3.13 million international and more than 4.42 million domestic passengers. During 2009-10, the airport would handle more than 3.65 million international and over 5.25 million domestic passengers. The Kolkata airport is expected to handle 0.72 million international and 3.45 million domestic passengers during 2006-07, while the following year the airport is likely to handle 0.77 million international and 3.73 million domestic passengers. During 2009-10, more than 0.86 million international and 4.35 million domestic passengers are expected to pass through the airport.

Briefing newspersons after the meeting of the Prime Minister's Committee on Infrastructure, the Minister for Civil Aviation, Mr Praful Patel, said that the Centre hoped to have a clearer picture on the modernisation of the two metro airports within the next three months after consulting with both the State governments.

Although the route to be followed for the modernisation and restructuring of the airports is yet to be filed, the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, is said to have given in-principle clearance for the project.

Besides, the Finance Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, while placing the Economic Survey for 2005-06 before Parliament, had said that the Government had taken an `in-principle' decision to modernise the Chennai airport through the joint venture route.

In the case of modernisation of Delhi and Mumbai airports, where the joint venture route was followed, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) and other Public Sector Undertakings are holding equity not exceeding 26 per cent in the joint venture that is to run the two busiest metro airports in the country.

While there is no clarity on the route to be followed, sources indicate that the expenditure for modernising the Chennai and Kolkata airports would be about Rs 5,700 crore to be spent from 2008-09 to 2013-14.

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