Panel favours retaining old airports in Bangalore and Hyderabad

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New Delhi, Oct 23 (UNI) A report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee has strongly recommended retaining old airports at Bangalore and Hyderabad for short haul flights and ruled against burdening the users with Airport Development Fees at the greenfield airports in the two cities.

The Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture, headed by Mr Sitaram Yechury, in its 42nd report functioning private airports and related issues observed that the charging of ADF or UDF for financing of the airport is not advisable in the context of policy objective of making the air travel more affordable. Hence the Committee has recommended that the UDF imposed on passengers may be withdrawn immediately and no more UDF may be imposed on passengers in any airport, Mr Yechury told newspersons.

He said the closures of existing HAL airports at Bangalore and Begumpet in Hyderabad had caused a revenue loss of Rs 610 crore in 2007-08 for the Airports Authority of India and hundreds of crore spent on developing this airports were lying unutilised because of closure of this infrastructure although these were used for VIP flights, general aviation and helicopter taxi services. These airports may be used for short haul flights as is the practice existing in major cities of the world which had more than one airport.

He said the two greenfield airports were seeking levy of ADF and UDF because the passenger traffic had fallen less than six million and they were asked to increase the capacity to nine million when the air traffic was witnessing boom conditions. They airports had scaled up the capacity to 12 million on their own but were seeking the levy of ADF/UDF to make good their losses. "This is not fair," he said.

Mr Yechury said the Committee was informed that the Notice Inviting Tender did not have any mention about the closure of HAL airport at Bangalore but was brought in at the later stage of concessionary agreement. The Centre had notified the closure of HAL airport for commercial civil operations from May 16. As regarding the violation of the norm that no new airport should come up within 150 km of existing airport and the permitting the greenfield airports in the two southern cities seemed to violate the policy of the Government.

Both greenfield airports were far away from the cities compelled the passengers to use other means of transport such as road and trains for short distance destinations. UDF charges have made the travel from these airports costlier both in terms of time and money, Mr Yechury said.

He said the Committee had found that the equity contributions of these two greenfield airports were Rs 240 crore in Bangalore and Rs 330 crore in Hyderabad and the land was given at a concessionary rate. Rest of the finance had come from Government agencies by way of debt from financial institutions. If such resources were to be given to AAI itself, they could have easily developed the infrastructure, the panel observed. Under such circumstances all future greenfield airports must be under a set-up where AAI has majority holding and management control.

The panel had observed that the Bangalore and Hyderabad airports were making the passengers pay 'exorbitant prices' for the food items in the airports, while those waiting outside had not access to affordable canteen facilities, toilets and bathrooms. excessive commercialisation had taken a toll of the passenger amenities, lack of drinking water facilities. There should be coordination and grievance redressal mechanism for regular interaction among various stakeholders of these airports with representation from the management, AAI, employees union.

UNI MCN RL AS1722

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