At 3:05 p.m. on February 12, a Kingfisher Airlines A320 aircraft touched down on the 4.2-kilometre-long runway at Hyderabad’s gleaming new Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, the first of a series of airports being built and modernised by private sector companies at cities, including Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai. The touch-down, which was a test landing, will be followed by the Rs 2,478-crore airport’s formal opening on March 16.
The ultra-modern steel, glass and concrete airport boasts what is, at least till now, the longest runway in India as well as the highest Air Traffic Control Tower (72 metres). The terminal building has a waveshaped roof that maximises the use of natural light; and needless to add, the airport will provide amenities that promise to make things easier, faster and more comfortable for passengers.
Hyderabad’s existing airport at Begumpet handles around 15 to 18 flights an hour (including takeoffs and landings) and the new airport at Shamshabad (30 km from the city centre) will be able to handle 30 to 35 flights an hour (including take-offs and landings) and have an annual capacity of being able to cater to 12 million passengers and 100,000 tonnes of cargo.
Built in three years (32 months to be precise) by a consortium led by the GMR Group, which is also modernising the Delhi airport, the Hyderabad airport was designed by Gudmund Stokke of Norway and Windson Shu of Hong Kong and has the Malaysia Airports Holding Berhad, Government of Andhra Pradesh and the Airports Authority of India as part of the consortium. Says an upbeat G. M. Rao, Chairman of the GMR Group: “This world-class airport combines the best of technology, design and features on par with the world’s best airports. It has been executed within the committed timelines, setting new benchmarks for the aviation sector in the country for developing world-class airports.”
Be that as it may, there could be a last-mile hitch in the offing. Although the airport is ready for business, roads that would transport passengers to and from the city are not. Of the four crucial connecting The Right Flavour, Finally Four Seasons’ first hotel in India is almost ready. routes planned by the Hyderabad Urban Development Authority (HUDA), only one is slated to be ready by the time the new airport is officially opened. HUDA Vice Chairman Jayesh Ranjan, however, affirms that one more route would be ready by April, a third by June and the fourth by December 2008.
Around 550 kilometres away from Hyderabad, in Bangalore, it’s a familiar story. A new airport, which will ease the horrendous conditions at the old airport, is almost ready and is slated for opening by end of March but the roads to get there are yet to be built. Such is the irony of India’s urban development.development.
— E. Kumar Sharma