Sunday, November 16, 2008

A flood of public grievances at Devanahalli airport hearing

A flood of public grievances at Devanahalli airport hearing

Staff Reporter

Joint Legislature Committee is examining lapses at the BIA

‘Capacity constraints at BIA; reopening of HAL

an alternative’

‘A task force can be formed to look into needs of the new airport’

— Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash

Disenchantment: A view of the crowded departure lounge at Bengaluru International Airport at Devanahalli.

Bangalore: The list of grievances was long. Passenger amenities below the international standards; demand for reopening HAL airport; non availability of food and beverages at cheaper price; lack of toilets for taxi drivers and police personnel; metro rail to connect airport instead of an exclusive high-speed rail link….

These were some of the complaints that participants aired during the public hearing organised by the Joint Legislature Committee, which is examining the activities related to the construction and other projects related to Bengaluru International Airport (BIA), in Bangalore on Thursday.

A.K. Saxena, former managing director of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), described the BIA as not a “true” world-class airport and its air traffic capacity was not greater than that of HAL. He disagreed with the Government’s decision to close the existing airport infrastructure for the new one. Mr. Saxena said that both airports could exist simultaneously, with short-haul domestic flights operating from HAL. This would not affect the BIA’s interest, he said.

M.V. Rajeev Gowda, professor, Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore, felt that the BIA had capacity constraints and reopening of HAL was one alternative. He said there was a need to renegotiate the contractual agreement with the BIAL on opening HAL airport as Karnataka’s air traffic could be affected if the Tamil Nadu government develops an airport at Hosur. “We should create a win-win situation for the Bangalore International Airport Limited and the air passengers,” he said.
Rail link opposed

Referring to the proposal to have an exclusive high-speed rail link from the city centre to the BIA, Mr. Gowda said it would be a waste of money. Connecting Yelahanka sector of the Metro Rail to the airport was a better option, he added.
Space for taxis

Jagadish Mahendra, general secretary of Karnataka City Taxi Operators’ Association demanded space for line parking of city taxies at the airport while pointing out that many taxi owner-cum-operators had lost their livelihood after closure of HAL airport, and due to the “monopolistic” business policies of the new airport operator.

He said the Government had ignored the interest of economically weaker sections while developing the new airport.

While Devesh Agarwal of Bangalore Chamber of Commerce and Industries complained about inadequate facilities in the air cargo division, Agha Sultan, executive council member of Visvesvaraya Technological University urged the committee to recommend a task force comprising experts, to look into the immediate needs of the new airport and propose future plans.

Karnataka Olympic Association President K. Govindaraj and many other participants pointed out that passenger amenities at the new airport were below international standards. Food and beverages should be available at cheaper rates, he said, and added that lack of toilets was causing inconvenience to taxi drivers, police personnel and other staff.

Airport Authority Employees’ Union, Bangalore branch secretary Stanley Sampath Kumar, found fault with the privatisation policy of the Government.

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