The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Twin airports for cities

New Delhi, Aug. 27: The new civil aviation policy that will soon be placed before the cabinet is likely to ease norms about allowing two airports within a 150-km radius.

This will help Noida and Navi Mumbai act as second airports for Delhi and Mumbai. It will also be helpful for any second airport that may be developed in Calcutta. Officials said civil aviation secretary Ajay Prasad told the committee of secretaries that his ministry would push the proposal.

However, the civil aviation ministry feels the projected traffic at Calcutta is insufficient to justify a second airport. “Frankly, there isn’t enough traffic right now for a second airport .... but if trade with Asean and the Far East takes off after free trade pacts with Korea, Japan, China and Asean, Calcutta may well need two airports,” officials said.

Besides, the Calcutta airport, which is undergoing a makeover by the Airports Authority of India, can have an additional runway to increase the flights in the city.

The government is expected to take the long-awaited civil aviation policy to the cabinet soon. The policy envisages an independent civil aviation regulator and will draw up merger and acquisition norms.

The policy, drafted by the civil aviation ministry, also wants to retain the ceiling on foreign direct investment, though the finance ministry wants a rise in the cap and allow foreign airlines to hold equity in Indian airlines.

The civil aviation regulator will set standards for the entire sector, issue licences to operators and personnel, regulate tariff, punish those who violate standards and ensure that there are no unfair trade practices and abuse of market dominance.

The civil aviation ministry will also soon bring before the cabinet a proposal that will allow city-side development of all non-metro airports by private players.

The government will entrust the job of air-side development to the Airports Authority and take on partners from private bidders to develop city-side facilities like retail malls and hotels.

Runways, parking bays, ATCs and security will be part of the air-side. Malls, passenger entry and baggage handling will be part of the city-side, which may be privatised.

Officials said the larger part of the income for any airport comes from parking slots to global airlines. An airport earns about 60 per cent of its revenue from the air-side and 40 per cent from the city-side.

City-side facilities are, however, more profitable as capital investments are far less. “This should make taking over city-side alone more lucrative to private players,” officials said.

Keeping the air-side with a state-run agency will also address the security concerns brought up by intelligence agencies and the Left parties.

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