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Add-ons boon at airport
- Extra check-in counters, X-ray machines and trolleys spell comfort for fliers

A string of steps promises to end the chaos and congestion at Calcutta airport’s domestic terminal.

The traffic-handling capacity of the terminal has gone up recently, with the addition of check-in counters, X-ray machines, over 1,000 new trolleys and an entrance. According to a survey by the Airports Authority of India, the acquisitions have increased the terminal’s traffic-handling capacity by nearly 40 per cent.

“Several other measures will be taken by early next year, improving things further,” said airport director V.K. Monga.

The canopy work is expected to be complete early next year. It spans 2,650 sq metres — from one end of the terminal to the other — and will expand the lounge area.

By January, the conveyor belts will have X-rays built into them to scan the registered baggage of passengers. “The X-ray machines being used now will not be needed then. We can remove them and use the space to set up more check-in counters,” added Monga. After the addition of 18 check-in counters over the past two months, the number of counters now stands at 46.

“The processing, check-in and security check is taking less time. This reduces flight operation time,” said the airport director. Extension of the secondary runway by 440 metres and a fifth taxiing bay between the primary and secondary runways will also speed up flight operation.

The secondary runway, once it is extended, will have Category I Instrumental Landing System (ILS). Some ILS components have arrived at the airport. The installation will start this year.

The check-in counters are functioning full-strength round the clock after deployment of more Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel. The counters used to run full strength from 5am to 9pm. Skeletal staff used to man the counters at night. “The additional hands have been of great help,” said a CISF officer.

Trolleys are the latest addition to the airport infrastructure. There were 1,400 trolleys in the terminal but a large number of them were not usable. The 1,100 trolleys recently acquired have brakes. Eight hundred more trolleys will be purchased by January.

The domestic terminal handles about 10,000 passengers every day. During peak hours, about 1,100 passengers board flights per hour. The number of domestic flights per week has gone up to 676 from 616 in summer.

If the rate of increase in flights persists, said airport officials, the infrastructure could again feel the strain in a couple of years.

“The modernisation project must be completed by the target date of January 2010. Otherwise, there will be major problems with flight operations,” predicted a senior airport official.

The modernisation plan, of about Rs 2,000 crore, envisages two new terminals at the airport — an integrated large one for domestic and international flights and relatively smaller one for international flights. The first terminal will have the capacity to handle 1.6 crore passengers per year. The second terminal will be able to handle 40 lakh passengers.

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