New Pune airport within four years: Patel

Pune's new international airport at Rajgurunagar, about 6km from the originally proposed site in Chakan, is likely to come about within four years' if everything goes according to plan and there are no disruptions, says union civil aviation minister Praful Patel.

Pune's present Lohegaon airport, is a passenger terminal at an air force base, and the Indian Air Force (IAF) has said it cannot give passenger planes any more time at the airport without sacrificing the IAF's operational preparedness. To make matters worse, runway repairs are on, and Patel said that passenger planes could get no more than the present eight hours allotted.

But with Pune's population expected to increase from 5.5 million to over 10 million in the coming years, it needs a new airport to reduce pressure on the existing airport facility. Patel, who was in the city on Friday, said the proposed airport would be developed on the lines of those in New Delhi, Hyderabad and Mumbai.

"A global tender will be floated for developing the airport and it would be a joint venture," said Patel. The site, which has been cleared by the Indian Air Force, is between Chakan and Rajgurunagar on the Pune-Nashik highway.

Patel recently pulled up the state government for delaying the execution of new airports in Navi Mumbai and Pune. He said the ministry was now waiting for the state government's notification on the new site. Land acquisition is the state government's responsibility.

A total of 2,000 hectares at Chandus and Shiroli villages has to be acquired for the airport. The techno-economic feasibility report is not ready as yet and technical details were awaited from India Meteorological Department and the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation, which would build the Pune airport.

"If it is completed within one year, then the bidding process to construct an airport could begin. If everything is on schedule, the city could have the facility operating by 2011 or 2012," the minister said.