India’s first private greenfield airport debuts

Beginning a new chapter in the Indian aviation sector, commercial flights started operation at the recently opened airport in Durgapur
 On 18th May, India’s first private greenfield airport project at Durgapur in West Bengal commenced commercial air operations with state-owned carrier Air India flying one of its planes to and from the airport.
Kazi Nazrul Islam Airport, promoted by Bengal Aerotropolis Pvt Ltd (BAPL), is expected to improve air connectivity across Bengal and pan-India. Subhajit Roy takes a closer look at the airport’s development.
Strategically importantAsansol is the 42nd fastest growing city in the world and India’s 10th fastest. Being among India’s richest in mineral deposits, the Asansol – Raniganj belt is one of India’s largest commodity trade centres. The zone has good road and rail connectivity but in this fast paced world there has been a growing need for faster long distance connectivity from the region. The people from the region had to travel all the way to Kolkata or Ranchi airports, some 200 kms away to catch their preferred flights to Delhi and Mumbai. Now with the Kazi Nazrul Islam Airport in Durgapur fully operational with regular Air India flights connecting to Kolkata and subsequently Delhi and Mumbai, the region will witness a boom in the transportation as well as business sphere. The new airport will certainly bridge the yawning gap and cut down on the time taken at present to travel between the region to Kolkata and beyond. 
Current status  The airport is now fully operational with Air India operating six days a week between Durgapur-Kolkata, enabling passengers to through check-in and connect with New Delhi and Mumbai. Additionally, Pinnacle Air which will connect Kolkata-Durgapur-Bagdogra and Cooch Behar is all set to start their operations as well within next few weeks. The company is likely to enter a pact with Go Air and Indigo, this week, to firm up the flight schedule. Advantage Durgapur airportThe Kazi Nazrul Islam Airport is the first private greenfield airport under the Greenfield Airport policy by the Government of India which is now operational. Additionally with night landing facility at the Durgapur airport, BAPL is also looking at permissions to receive flights from Kolkata airport due to inclement weather and any other exigencies. “With just 35 minutes away from Kolkata Airport, Kazi Nazrul Islam Airport will be a right choice for flights as an alternative solution,” claims a BAPL spokesperson.
PPP model for development of greenfield airports. Is it a success story?   PPP model for development is one of most the significant achievements of the Civil Aviation in India. The model has facilitated improvement in infrastructure and also led to growth in revenues. The development of airports in Tier II and Tier III cities will only act as betterment for the transportation sector. With more than half of India’s air travellers being handled by PPP airports and with passenger numbers expected to triple over the next decade, it is an ideal scenario for massive investments in airport expansion and construction.
According to the BAPL spokesperson, “The PPP model has dramatically improved the quality of the passenger’s travel experience and also increased capacity at the airports. The prospect for superior innovation is huge in this model and also it makes significant contribution to regional and national economy of India. It also augurs well about the perception regarding India’s infrastructure in the global arena.”
Challenges faced while executingNearly all projects in India run into land acquisition issues and these in turn create hurdles in developmental work. Similarly BAPL too faced some hurdles during the progress of work at the project site.
According to BAPL sources, “One of the prime reasons for which the airport had to face a string of land acquisition concern over the years was for the shifting of the high tension lines which was running right across the runway and was making it unfeasible for the airport to be functional.”
Post the West Bengal government intervention and taking all concerned landowners under confidence BAPL achieved the feat of being India’s first project which relocated the EHV line by both overhead and underground cabling. “Also the approach road to the airport from NH 2 which now provides direct access to the airport also faced land hurdles earlier but all issues have been solved amicably by BAPL,” a BAPL source adds.  

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