Chennai airport expansion project inaugurated

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Chennai, Oct 20 (UNI) Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi today inaugurated the much-awaited Rs 1,808 crore expansion project of Chennai Airport.

As decided at an all party meeting held in May to take up the expansion project, the Chief Minister launched the project at a function at the airport this evening.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Ramalingam, Chairman, Airport Authority of India (AAI), which was entrusted with the job of expansion by the state government, said the project would be completed by December 2010.

He said besides the expansion of the airport, the Air Traffic Control service and Cargo complex would be modernised at a cost of Rs 145 crore each.

Presently, 30 aircraft could land and take off in an hour at Chennai Airport and after the expansion, 45 flights could be operated in an hour as the runway would be expanded to 2500 ft, he said.

He said ten million people visited the airport in a year and after expansion, the number would increase to 23 million.

Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel, speaking at the function, urged the Tamil Nadu government to reduced the sales tax on aviation fuel, which was pegged at 29 per cent.

After the Centre made a similar plea, the Anhdra Pradesh government had reduced the sales tax by four per cent. The Kerala government too had cut down the tax, he said.

If the Tamil Nadu government came forward to reduce the sales tax, his ministry could increase the flight service and air traffic, Mr Patel said.

Mr Patel added that the Centre was ready to take up the greenfield airport, coming up at Sriperumbudur and wanted the state government to complete the land acquisition process at the earliest. ''We are ready to take up the project at any time. It is for the state government to give us the land'', he added.

Inaugurating the expansion project, Mr Karunanidhi urged the Centre to convert the army air base in Thanjavur to handle passenger traffic. Mr Karunanidhi, who himself hails from Thanjavur district, said he was not making the plea with self interest, but for the overall interest of the people.

He also wanted the Centre to open airports at Vellore and Tuticorin.

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