Parliamentary panel against closure of existing airports
06 March 2008
New Delhi: A row with private operators in the aviation infrastructure sector may soon escalate with the parliamentary standing committee on transport and tourism recommending that the existing airports in Hyderabad and Bangalore be kept open for service even after new ones being developed in these cities open for service.
Under a contractual agreement with the developers of new airports in these cities, old state-run airports have to be closed once the new ones are ready for service.
In its report to the Parliament, tabled on Wednesday, the committee has said that the logic behind the closure of old airports is not tenable.
"The estimates and projections (for new airports and closure of older ones) were made on the basis of the 1999 and 2000 statistics when the civil aviation sector was growing at 6 per cent per annum. Today, it is growing at 20 per cent a year. If the present trend continues, in a few years, even the new airports will not able to handle the rush of passengers," the report said, adding the government should, therefore, allow both new and old airports to function with adequate arrangements to allow profitability of both.
Commenting on another aspect of airport construction agreements, the report says that to allow new private airports to charge a user development fee of Rs700 per passenger from airlines and preventing the Airports Authority of India (AAI) from charging even Rs350 at the same time is unfair. Such user charges will also contribute to an escalation in the cost of air travel.
User charges to be levied at new airports have already attracted protests from a number of air carriers and NGOs.
A public interest litigation has also been filed in the Bangalore High Court over the closure of the existing airport and the petition is likely to be heard soon.
It is being pointed out that the new airports in Hyderabad and Bangalore are far from the respective cities and not well connected, which, couple with user charges is only going to add to the cost of travel.
In the face of these protests the government can only state that it under a contractual obligation under the concession agreement to close down the older airports. Since the matter is already with the courts the judiciary will come out with a verdict.