Airports to be developed as integrated multi-modal hubs

The draft new civil aviation policy released for consultation with public and stakeholders moots airports to be designed as integrated multi-modal hubs, so that they provide the best possible service levels as well as potential for growth.

''An integrated multi-modal hub should include rail, metro, bus and truck connectivity as well as accommodation and other services'', civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju Pusapati said while releasing the draft civil aviation policy.

''It is a step towards making civil aviation a vibrant sector in our country, to rise to its full potential'', he said.

The new civil aviation policy which ''aims to develop a transparent policy in which regulations for the civil aviation sector would be more meaningful,'' is expected to be in place by January 2015, he added.

Speaking on the occasion, civil aviation secretary V Somasundaran highlighted the salient features of the draft civil aviation policy in terms of better services and conveniences to flyers.

''Airports are to be designed as integrated multi-modal hubs, so that they provide the best possible service levels as well as potential for growth. An integrated multi-modal hub should include rail, metro, bus and truck connectivity as well as accommodation and other services'', he said.

While developing airports, it is equally essential to ensure that related sectors such as access to manufacture, business, tourism and pilgrim centres are developed. This needs to be done in association with other central government departments as well as the state government/union territory.

The six metropolitan airports at Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore and Hyderabad would be developed as major international hubs and would in future be the main access points for international travel to and from India. In future a ''hub-and-spoke'' model would be followed, which would also facilitate the development of regional networks and air connectivity as a whole.

The existing bilateral air connectivity agreements with foreign governments will be designed in such a way as to facilitate the hub-and-spoke model.

Rationalising ATF prices
The draft policy emphasises rationalising the cost of aviation turbine fuel (ATF). Due to high rates of taxes, the cost of ATF in India is 40 to 45 per cent higher than the international costs. Steps will be taken in association with the ministry of finance and state governments to rationalise the rate of taxes so that domestic costs of ATF are competitive.

Regarding development of the cargo sector, the government proposes to substantially develop the transport of air cargo for which there is considerable potential. To achieve the objective, the six metro airports will be developed as regional cargo hubs, integrating multi-modal transport facilities, cold chains and other commodity specific requirements.

The turnaround time for cargo will be upgraded to international standards. Air freight stations will be developed in different parts of the country to streamline customs clearance and to reduce congestion in the airports.

Air India to go private; AAI, Pawan Hans to be corporatised
As institutional reforms, the government proposes to constitute an expert committee to develop a future roadmap for Air India aimed at privatising the loss-making national flag carrier.

Airports Authority of India will be corporatised, followed by listing in the stock exchanges, in order to improve efficiency and transparency.

Pawan Hans Ltd will be listed in the stock exchanges with the same objective. A mission mode project will be set up to ensure that organisations under the ministry are competitive in terms of efficiency and costs.

The government is expected to divest up to 20 per cent stake in each and divestment may take up to six months.

AAI is expected to double net profits to Rs1,400 crore in FY14 and Pawan Hans is also a profitable venture. The government may earn well from divesting stake in both.

For airport modernisation via the PPP mode, only two of earlier six airports, ie, Jaipur and Ahmedabad, would be given on 30-year lease to private developers. Another two airports - Guwahati and Lucknow – have now been put on the backburner.

For airports at Kolkata and Chennai, private parties will be given only management contracts for a fixed fee, no lease. AAI already spent huge amounts on both airports.

Helicopter aviation is a segment that has considerable potential for growth in areas such as reducing congestion in the big cities, medical evacuation, relief operations, law and order, oil exploration etc.

Heliports and helipads will be developed in locations with sufficient potential. It is also proposed to provide suitable incentives to helicopter operators in respect of operational costs in the airports.

The rules and regulations followed by DGCA will be upgraded to international standards. Systems will be introduced for online receipt and clearance of various permissions and clearances.

Connectivity 
The government's objective will be to provide optimum air connectivity to all regions, subject to commercial viability. A special package will be developed for the North-Eastern Region to improve air connectivity and provide linkages to remote locations.

The route dispersal guidelines will be reviewed with the objective of encouraging Indian carriers to enhance regional connectivity through deployment of small aircrafts and code sharing arrangements. The 5/20 guidelines will be reviewed with a view to encouraging the entry of new Indian carriers.

For development of the civil aviation sector, provision of air navigation services (ANS) of international standards is essential. The Airports Authority of India has taken several initiatives in this direction. These would be intensified with the objective of reducing flying time, elimination of crowding at airports, direct routing of aircrafts from destination to destination and enhancing communication and navigation services to international standards.

The functioning of the civil aviation ministry and the offices under it will be digitised to improve efficiency and transparency. The service and clearances to be given by different agencies will be made online. electronic procurement systems will be strengthened to ensure transparency and accountability.

The consultation process is expected to be over in three weeks, after which six to seven groups of experts would be constituted to interact with stakeholders and review the inputs received during the process. The final policy wold be in place be the year-end.