Sonia inaugurates Hyderabad’s new airport

March 14th, 2008 - 9:07 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Sonia Gandhi

Hyderabad, March 14 (IANS) India’s first world-class greenfield airport built in the public-private partnership at Hyderabad was inaugurated by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi here Friday. The Rajiv Gandhi International Airport at Shamshabad, about 30 km from the city, the new icon of this IT hub, was unveiled in the afternoon in the presence of Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel, Andhra Pradesh Governor N.D. Tiwari and Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy.

It was Gandhi herself who had laid the foundation stone for the project March 16, 2005.

The project was completed six months ahead of schedule and opened a couple of weeks before the inauguration of the new airport in Bangalore, which is often described as Hyderabad’s competitor.

The airport, which has many firsts to its credit, will commence commercial operations from 0001 hrs Sunday, and all operations from the existing airport at Begumpet in the heart of the city would be shifted to the new airport.

Built at a cost of Rs.25 billion, the airport is being billed as India’s first truly world-class airport, offering facilities on par with those at Oslo, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore airports. The developers claim this project would take Indian airports to a new era.

The airport has been built by GMR Hyderabad International Airport Limited (GHIAL), a joint venture in which GMR Infrastructure Limited holds 63 percent, Malaysia Airports Holding Berhad 11 percent, Airports Authority of India (AAI) 13 percent and the Andhra Pradesh government 13 percent.

Designed to handle 12 million passengers in the first phase, the airport is expected to make the city an international hub on par with Dubai and Singapore and a cargo hub of Southeast Asia.

The ultimate capacity of the airport is 40 million passengers a year and one million tones of cargo annually.

However, the inauguration was marked by controversies.

Its launch was preceded by a strike by AAI employees at the existing airport who were opposing the handing over a profit-making airport to a private company.

Moreover, the state’s main opposition Telugu Desam Party held protests Thursday, protesting the name of the new airport.

The Begumpet airport had the international unit named after former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and the domestic terminal after TDP founder and former Andhra Pradesh chief minister N.T. Rama Rao.

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