Double whammy for airport plans
Patna: The city airport upgrade has hit an air pocket even before take-off.
The much needed and much awaited expansion of the Jayaprakash Narayan International Airport and construction of the civil enclave at the air force station in Bihta, around 35km west of the state capital, have been delayed.
The financial bids for the expansion work of the Patna airport have not been opened so far as the project cost of the new and improved airport has escalated from Rs 800 crore to Rs 1,150 crore, throwing a spanner in the entire plan.
"Airports Authority of India (AAI) headquarters in New Delhi are looking after the expansion work. They will now have to seek the nod of the Union cabinet as it is mandatory to do so for any project above Rs 1,000 crore," Patna airport director Rajender Singh Lahauria told The Telegraph on Wednesday.
The delay has come after the technical bids for the expansion work were opened and the civil aviation authorities last year approved the design for a new terminal building.
As per the previous plans, the agency to execute the work was to be selected by March this year and the deadline for the completion of work was the year 2021.
All that is now up in the air.
"We may get to know when expansion work and construction of new terminal building will start in a month or so," Lahauria said.
Patna airport is considered one of the country's most congested airports.
Its present terminal building was constructed in 1973, when just a couple of flights operated from here, with a capacity of 5 lakh passengers per annum.
The flow of passengers per annum crossed the figure of 30 lakh on March 31 this year.
The airport sees 45 arrivals and an equal number of departures daily, but virtually has only four functional parking bays for aircraft.
The congestion becomes even more marked during bad weather when flights get delayed leading to overcrowding at the terminal building and the space outside.
The delay in expansion and construction of a new terminal building at Patna airport has also led to delay in establishing a civil enclave at Bihta air force station as a domino effect; the design of the terminal building in Bihta was to be done after beginning of upgrade work at Patna airport.
The deadline for Bihta was also 2021, and there is a cloud over that now. However, in one good news, the state government has already acquired 126 acres of land at Bihta, of which the AAI will get 108 acres.
Getting land for projects is invariably a hurdle that holds up projects in Bihar.
"Boundary wall work at Bihta will start after AAI and the state government sign a memorandum of understanding. Though 2021 is the target of completion of work there, we cannot set a final date till the design comes," Lahauria said.
The airport director said that both the airports will have to operate together as the new terminal building at Patna airport will have a capacity of 45 lakh passengers per annum - a figure that will be surpassed in just a few years.