Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Work apace at Bangalore’s new international airport

Work apace at Bangalore’s new international airport

‘Will be ready for commercial flights in April 2008’

At a glance

Total land area – 3,900 acres

Total cost – Rs 1,930 crore

Terminal building – 68,631 sq m

Aircraft stands - 42

Number of aerobridges – 9

Boarding gates – 9

Cement consumed till July 2007 – 71,392 tonnes

Steel consumed – 11,000 tonnes

Number of mandays – 3 million

Take-off on schedule: Mr Albert Brunner, Chief Executive Officer, Bangalore International Airport Ltd, at the BIAL construction site at Devanahalli, near Bangalore. - G.R.N. Somashekar

N. Ramakrishnan

Chennai, Aug. 27 The car driver breezily tells you it will only take about 45 minutes, or at the most an hour, to get to your destination — Devanahalli, about 35 km to the north of Bangalore, where the city’s new airport is fast coming up.

But with horror stories of traffic snarls, especially after 8.30 in the morning, at the back of your mind, you ask the driver to be ready to leave by 8.15 a.m. for the 10 O’clock appointment.

Sure enough, you crawl in bumper-to-bumper traffic and wonder whether you should have left even earlier. After a while, traffic becomes lighter and then you are on a highway. Your tension eases when you see a sign on the national highway indicating that the airport is 5 km away.

As the car turns off the highway, it is a bumpy drive on a makeshift road till you reach the air-conditioned site offices at the airport. Once comfortably seated inside Larsen & Toubro’s site office, you wonder aloud whether the airport will be ready on schedule for commercial flights in April 2008.

“Definitely yes,” asserts Mr Albert Brunner, Chief Executive Officer, Bangalore International Airport Ltd, as he walks you through the construction activity. So too do officials from Larsen & Toubro, an equity partner in the project as well as the contractor.
Completion schedule

Construction on the airport started in July 2005 and according to the concession agreement the company signed with the Centre, it is obliged to open the new airport within 33 months after start of construction.

Now, Mr Brunner says, the airport will open for commercial flights on March 30, against the original target of April 2.

The airlines will change their timetable for the summer that day and the airport will be ready for that. “We have to inform the airlines six months before (the scheduled opening date) and we will do that,” he says.

“You should have come here one year ago. Then you would believe that we can actually do it,” says Mr Brunner in response to your concerns. Eucalyptus trees and shrubs covered the 3,900-acre site and they had to be cut down.

Sticking to schedule, he says, is a remarkable achievement considering that the scope of the work was increased by 40 per cent without any increase in the period of construction.

By the time the company completed negotiations and overcame legal problems, it realised that airline passenger traffic in Bangalore had increased tremendously. Therefore, it had to provide for more space at the terminal and more aircraft parking stands. It had to do this without any change in the airport opening date.

A private sector consortium led by Siemens, the Karnataka Government, and the Airports Authority of India (AAI) have formed Bangalore International Airport Ltd (BIAL), which is constructing the airport and will operate and manage it.

Siemens Project Ventures of Germany, the lead member of the private sector consortium, has a 40 per cent share of the Rs 326-crore equity, and the other two private sector partners — Unique Zurich Airport, Switzerland, and Larsen & Toubro — hold 17 per cent each.

KSIIDC, a Karnataka Government undertaking, and AAI hold 13 per cent stake each. The ECC division of L&T is also the engineering, procurement, and construction contractor for the project.
Trial run

The 4-km long and 60-m wide runway has been completed and can handle Boeing 747 aircraft, although Mr Brunner says it can even handle the next-generation larger Airbus A380 aircraft. The terminal building’s structure is ready and helmeted-workers are putting other elements of the building in place for trial flights to begin in January.

It will be a regular trial with flights and passengers so that all systems — the aerobridges, the control tower functions, the conveyor belts that move the bags from the aircraft for passengers to retrieve them, and the check-in counters — are tested and glitches ironed out before regular commercial flights begin.

There are nearly 5,400 workers engaged by L&T and another 600 employed by Siemens, which is also the electrical contractor, at the site, as BIAL is racing against time to get the airport ready.
Flyover access

BIAL will also construct a Rs 117-crore flyover that will provide access from the national highway to the airport. This should make entry to and exit from the airport smoother. However, as Mr Brunner points out, a high-speed rail link from the city is definitely required. “We cannot rely on this highway alone,” he says. Otherwise, as our driver informed us, the commute during peak hours, which now stretches throughout the day, could be anything upwards of two hours.

Both Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh decided to go in for new airports to be constructed with private-sector participation, as the infrastructure at the existing airports were creaking and inadequate to handle the growing air passenger traffic.

The greenfield airport at Hyderabad is scheduled to open a month before Bangalore’s begins operations.


Post a Comment

<< Home