The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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High-fly airport agenda

A new terminal building, world-class aerobridges, revamped landing and lighting systems, giant cargo terminal ' Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport is taxiing to a turnaround.

A five-year, Rs 150-crore makeover model was rolled out by civil aviation minister Praful Patel on Friday.

The idea, he said, was to upgrade the airport with international-standard infrastructure.

'Conditions at Calcutta airport need a great deal of improvement. This includes increasing the capacity of terminals,' the minister asserted, after meeting chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee at Writers' Buildings.

In a matter of months, the Centre will start building an international terminal with a new building. The existing one will be demolished.

'The new terminal will meet international standards and will accommodate traffic for the next 25 years,' the minister said.

The architectural design for the new terminal is ready and financial approval has been granted.

The terminal has been designed by an architect behind another airport in Paris, added Patel.

Admitting that Indian aviation hadn't grown much compared to some other Asian countries, Patel added: 'Our facilities need to be as good as Singapore and Dubai. The airports in the metros should have world-class facilities to act as a catalyst for business and industry.'

Calcutta is among 28 airports targeted for a makeover. The domestic terminal at Dum Dum will also be upgraded with aerobridges and the landing and lighting systems will be overhauled. 'We don't want delays of flights due to fog,' the minister said.

The airport will have a new Rs 50-crore cargo complex with cold-storage facility.

'We hope this will give a fillip to export of fruits, vegetables and flowers from Bengal,' said Patel.

The Centre will also use Bengal as the engineering base for manufacturing the Airbus 319, set to replace the Indian Airlines Boeing aircraft.

The minister, however, expressed concern about the fact that Calcutta has 'very few' international flights (only 10 at current count).

'We want to correct the situation. Any foreign airline seeking permission for operating from here will be given top priority,' promised Patel, adding that both Indian Airlines and Air-India would start additional international flights next year.

'These flights will concentrate on Asean cities like Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. Calcutta has the potential to be a hub for the region,' Patel said.

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