Karnataka wants to retain old HAL airport

June 20th, 2008 - 8:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangalore, June 20 (IANS) The HAL airport in Bangalore, closed down in May following the launch of a new international airport, should be retained for commercial use to avoid inconvenience to passengers flying to destinations like Chennai, Hyderabad and Thiruvananthapuram, the government said Friday. “We want to retain the HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd) airport for short-haul flights. The central government should consider this,” IT, BT and Information Minister Katta Subramanya Naidu told reporters.

The HAL airport, about 10 km from the city centre, was closed for commercial operations from May 23 as the new Bengaluru International Airport began operations at Devanahalli, 35 km from the city.

Connectivity to the new airport remains a problem and the decision to close down the HAL airport has also been challenged in the high court, which has asked both the central and state governments to examine whether the old airport can be retained.

Besides connectivity, a cab ride to airport from the city centre costs around Rs.700. Travelling time could take up to two hours in peak time, making air travel to short distances like Chennai, Hyderabad and Thiruvanathapuram both costlier and time consuming.

The retention of HAL airport for commercial operation has become a highly contentious issue as the concession agreement with the consortium that built and operates the new airport at Devanhalli says that no airport can function or come up for commercial purposes in a radius of 150 km.

“The central government should hold talks with the new airport authorities on retaining the HAL airport,” Naidu said on the sidelines of the fourth India Innovation Summit, organised by the Confederation of Indian Industries, Bangalore chapter.

“There are examples of cities with two airports operating,” Naidu said. He added that the state, which is a minority stake holder in the new airport, was prepared for a dialogue on retraining the HAL airport. He said the central government should take the initiative.

IT bellwether Infosys chief executive officer and managing director Kris Gopalakrishnan, who also addressed the summit, said any government initiative to ensure functioning of both the airports was welcome.

“We should try and retain existing infrastructure as we are always short of it,” he added.

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