Belgaum airports on Centre’s radar
From B S Arun DH News Service New Delhi:
In a key initiative to upgrade and expand Karnataka’s regional airports at Hubli and Belgaum and turning the Indian Navy’s airstrip in Karwar into a civilian strip, a high-level team of Civil Aviation Ministry will visit the state for two days from January 24. Led by ministry joint secretary K N Shrivastava, who handles matters relating to airports at the ministry, the team consists of senior officials from the Airports Authority of India [AAI] which manages all the civilian airports of the country. The team will first visit Belgaum and then Karwar and Hubli. The major task of the Ministry, Mr Shrivastava told Deccan Herald here on Monday, would be to expand the Belgaum and Hubli airports so that they are able to receive larger aircraft of the size of A320s.
For this, the runway of the two airports, which now handle small aircraft like ATR, needs to be extended and terminals enlarged to cater to a larger number of passengers. While Belgaum airport, which belongs to the Indian Air Force, will get additional land of 370 acre — as against the current 150 acre —Hubli will get about 250 acre of additional land. In both the Tier II cities, the state government has agreed to give land free. While the state government will give the additional land required at these locations, the AAI will take care of the infrastructure development. For this, AAI is likely to spend a total of about Rs 250 crore for the three airports. The joint secretary, who was earlier managing director of Bangalore Metro, said the upgradation of airports was a joint effort of the state and the Centre as these airports needed expansion in view of the opening up of the aviation sector and the willingness of the airlines to operate to smaller cities. Air Deccan is already flying to these cities while Vijay Mallya’s Kingfisher Airlines has expressed willingness to operate to these two major centres. Expanding the naval airstrip at Karwar and making civil aircraft operate on the coastal region had been one of the long-standing demands of the state government which could be realised soon. AAI sources said the state government needed to provide for better transport facilities for passengers to travel between Hubli and the airport, which is situated on the outskirts. The Ministry is yet to take up the other proposals of the State such as construction of greenfield airports at Shimoga, Gulbarga, Hassan and Bijapur.