Friday, November 02, 2007

‘I HAVE A VISION’

‘I HAVE A VISION’
BIAL CEO Albert Brunner Details His Road Map To Improve Infrastructure
TIMES NEWS NETWORK

Bangalore: The Devanahalli international airport — being constructed at a cost of Rs 2,400 crore — will be inaugurated on March 30, 2008. The burning issue, however, is the access road to the airport, which is 35 km from the city. Transport arrangements to and from the airport for passengers — at least 30,000 of them will use the airport every day — is woefully inadequate. The only option for passengers is to use the everbusy Bellary Road or an airlift from HAL airport to the new airport. R Jayaprakash speaks to Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) CEO Albert Brunner about the hurdles.
It’s clear that none of the planned routes — rail link or expressway — have taken off. Didn’t you take up the issue with the authorities?
I have taken up the issue with the Union civil aviation ministry and state government. However, there is no progress. We even took over the trumpet flyover project; what else do you want us to do? BAIL is in-charge of the airport’s construction and only that. After six years, nothing concrete has happened to provide a dedicated link.
The Chambers of Commerce have suggested that the HAL airport should be operational, at least till the road and rail link are in place. Why can’t you facilitate this?
This option is out of the question. Any step in this direction will land the airport project in a legal wrangle. If we relax on the issue, I doubt whether the government will do anything at all. Let there be an inevitable situation and in that eventuality, people at the helm of affairs will have no choice but to expedite the projects as soon as possible.
For another three years, there will be chaos and BIAL will be badmouthed because people can’t get to the airport. The government is ready to keep the HAL airport open for some more time.
Every thing is going according to plan. There is no mismatch between our planning and execution. It’s unfortunate that people will crib to use one of the finest airports of India. However, we will support and do whatever possible to help the government. On the same note, we cannot, at any point of time, allow the HAL airport to function after March 28, 2008.
What is the response of the Union civil aviation ministry on the state of affairs here?
I met the ministry officials as I had to submit the Airport Preparedness Plan, which states how we would shift the operations. During the meet, the issue was brought up. They said it would be discussed at the highest level.
Your final word — what’s the solution?
Improve whatever we have. Improve the condition of Bellary Road and the existing rail link that runs up to the trumpet flyover at the airport’s entrance. I support the idea to use this line to ferry passengers. We already have a rail link and are talking about putting up a green field project. I agree that a dedicated high-speed rail link is necessary, but we should do whatever is possible to use the existing facility. If all the passengers start opting for an airlift, which is impossible, conflicts will arise. It’s high time we sit with the Railways and whoever else is concerned, and thrash out a solution. We need to put pressure, otherwise nothing will happen.

I think the HAL Airport must be kept functional, at least for lowcost and shorthaul flights until the infrastructure connecting the city to BIAL is ready. The delay of projects, combined with the decision to divert all flights to BIAL, will affect passengers of low-cost and short-haul flights. —Capt G R Gopinath

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