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HAL airport may reopen later: minister

Govt Studying Options, Wants Some Flights From Old Facility
Saurabh Sinha & Anshul Dhamija |TNN

Source : The Times of India

New Delhi/Bangalore: Less than 48 hours before HAL airport shuts down and the Bengaluru International Airport (BIA) takes off, the Centre has made a U-turn on its decision of having only one airport in Bangalore.

Civil aviation minister Praful Patel told TOI: “The ministry is not happy with having only one airport.” The government is exploring all legal options of keeping HAL airport open for some flights. But, for the time being, the existing facility will have to close for all commercial operations from May 23.

“Big cities need more than one airport today. It’s unfortunate that contractual obligations, based on a bidding process undertaken by the previous government, have forced old airports at Bangalore and Hyderabad to shut down. The modernization of Delhi and Mumbai airports, undertaken by us, does not have any such condition,” a concerned Patel said.

“Unfortunately, this kind of thinking was not reflected in Hyderabad and Bangalore by the past government. We are not happy with this situation and are exploring all angles to keep the existing airports open alongside the new ones,” the minister said.

Patel’s statement comes after his ministry had announced the closure of the HAL airport after a crucial meeting was held between the government and the BIAL stakeholders on May 12.

TOI had reported that the government was considering keeping the HAL airport open for 80-seater short-haul flights and cargo flights. DGCA sources had confirmed the government’s thinking.

It is learnt that the ministry is poring over the bid documents made for the new airport — which was awarded to a Siemens-Zurich Airport-L&T consortium — to find a way out. The Centre is also looking at the traffic projections that have been overtaken.

Says aviation expert Devesh Agarwal: “In the past three years, Bangalore’s passenger traffic has grown by over 250%.” Currently, HAL airport handles 11 million passengers. “The bidding process would have certainly been different had it been undertaken by this
government. I would have preferred to keep both airports open. We’re trying to find some way out,” said Patel.

Members of the Bangalore City Connect (BCC), a citizens’ group comprising industry leaders, experts and the public, had voiced a similar point of view.

BCC member V Ravichander had said: “When a global tender was floated for building a new airport in Bangalore, nowhere did it mention that HAL airport had to be closed down. Only after months of re-negotiation with the Centre did the no-airportwithin-150-km clause come into force.”

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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