‘No change in government’s stand on airport closure’

March 8th, 2008 - 12:37 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Sonia Gandhi

Bangalore, March 7 (IANS) The government Friday ruled out keeping open the existing airports in Bangalore and Hyderabad once the new international airports of both cities begin commercial operations, a top official said here Friday. “There is no change in the government’s stand to close the present airports as per the concession agreements signed with the promoters. There is a contractual obligation,” Civil Aviation Secretary Ashok Chawla told IANS at Bengaluru International Airport near Devanhalli, where final flight trials were conducted Friday.

In view of the major problem of connectivity of both cities with the new airports, which are 30-40 km from the city centres, frequent fliers, feeder airlines and affected citizens have been clamouring for the retention of the present airports to save commuting time and travel costs.

“We are aware of the connectivity problem. I will not be able to comment further, as the issue is in the law courts and hence sub-judice. We have reiterated our position in response to the PILs (public interest litigations), filed in the Andhra Pradesh High Court and the Karnataka High Court. The cases are being heard,” Chawla pointed out.

The PILs have sought judicial intervention for continuing the existing airports till the connectivity problem was solved and to allow feeder airlines to operate short-haul flights to save time and cost of airfare.

The Andhra Pradesh High Court adjourned the hearing Wednesday to April 4 without giving interim relief to the petitioner, while the Karnataka High Court adjourned the case Thursday for further hearing March 10.

On the recommendation of the parliamentary committee on transport, tourism and culture to renegotiate the concession agreements (CAs) with the respective consortiums for continuing the existing airports, Chawla said the government would respond to the committee’s report appropriately.

“We will look into the recommendation and respond appropriately. We are yet to study the committee report,” he added.

The standing committee, headed by Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechury, urged the government to modify or scrap the clause in the CAs allowing the closure of the present airports.

The committee’s 131st report was tabled in parliament Wednesday.

The clause in the CA bars presence of another airport within 150 km radius of the new international airport for commercial operations.

The Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad, promoted by the GMR group, is slated to commence operations from March 16 after its inaugural by United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi March 14.

The Bengaluru International Airport is scheduled to begin operations March 30 after its inauguration by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh March 28.

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