Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Drive to BIAL sure to be hell

Drive to BIAL sure to be hell

Bangalore: You can reach any part of India from Bangalore by air in less than three hours. But you’ll need four hours to go to the Devanahalli international airport from Electronic City by road. With 150 days for the opening of the airport, only one national highway takes you there.
Neither the ambitious dedicated express highway planned by the BMRDA nor the high-speed rail link proposed by the government will materialise in another four to five years. Till then, air passengers have two options — take the soon-to-be choked NH-7 or fly from the HAL airport to the international airport at Rs 1,500 per ticket.
The round table on Tuesday organised by the Bangalore Chamber of Industry and Commerce (BCIC) on ‘Connectivity to International Airport’ saw stakeholders cut a sorry figure with no viable alternatives to offer.
On the Bellary Road or the NH 7, your journey to the airport will be a 90-minute drive amid chaotic traffic. It’s ironical that a passenger to Hyderabad or Chennai for a flight of about 30 to 45 minutes will have to endure a 2-hour drive just to get to the airport.
BIAL CEO Albert Brunner ruled out the option of keeping the existing airport open till proper road and rail connectivity is in place. The HAL airport will close operations on March 28 and from March 30, the runways at Devanahalli will be abuzz with action.
The cream of business class — BCIC, FKCCI and CII — waited eagerly for infrastructure secretary V P Baligar. But he had only excuses — the trumpet flyover on NH-7 and airport entrance, expressway or the speed rail link from MG Road to the airport were held up either due to litigation, land acquisition problems or clearance delays.
Those who value their time can opt the HAL airport-Devanahalli transfer by air. The government has worked out a deal with the BIAL on this. However, this may be available for only premium class passengers.
Through NH 7 Bellary Road, distance to airport will be 35 km; via expressway, it will be 22 km Existing traffic is 20,000 Passenger Car Units/day As per BIAL, nearly 11.5 million passengers will take aerial route annually which will increase traffic to 40,000 PCUs Stakeholders criticised for poor connectivity
Bangalore: Tempers flew high as industry captains questioned people at the helm of affairs about their actions, plans and credentials at the round table on connectivity to the international airport organised by BCIC on Tuesday.
The opening remarks of Albert Brunner, CEO, BIAL say it all: “I have been blamed for completing the project on time.’’
Head honchos wanted to drive home their point — keep the HAL airport open. The rallying points were: What are your plans for transporting passengers to the Devanahalli airport, which is 35 km away? If there is no dedicated road or rail link, why don’t you keep the HAL airport open till then?
However, everyone agreed on two points: there was no alternative to Bellary Road and all dedicated transport systems planned for the airport were still on paper.
Apart from Brunner and infrastructure secretary V P Baligar, BBMP commissioner S Subramanya, BMTC chief vigilance officer P S Sandhu and airport director Narendra Kausal, also the speakers, were mute spectators for most of the time. There weren’t too many takers for their proposals — introduction of Volvo buses, check-in counters in the city, expansion of Bellary Road from Mehkri Circle to Hebbal flyover, satellite checkin at HAL airport. Reason? They don’t serve the purpose.
Not pleased with answers to their questions, the members then sought Brunner’s opinion on whether it was possible to keep the HAL airport open for a short term by entering into agreement with the state government. The answer was a clear ‘No’. Brunner said there were many legal issues and he could not breach the contract entered into with concessionaires.

What they said

Albert Brunner, CEO, BIAL
Iwonder what I should tell you all. I have been blamed for doing my job — completing the project on time as per the agreement. All these years you knew that airport was coming up at Devanahalli, what were you doing?
When we started the project, the passenger volume was 4 million and it has since then seen a phenomenal growth and now it’s 9 million. We have increased the capacity of airport by 40%. The cargo capacity has increased to 3 lakh tonnes from 1.6 lakh tonnes. The day we open the airport we will start expanding it again. But, connectivity is an issue that needs to be addressed. It came as a shock to me to know that the trumpet flyover project was given to an agency which had not even built a bridge! We are pumping in Rs 120 crore for the project.
Please don’t yield to the temptation of keeping the HAL airport open, as it will only lead to litigations. The BIAL has signed contracts with the best of world concessionaries over hotel, logistics and other requirements. The BIAL has put in Rs 2400 crore. You cannot have two different airports for long haul and short haul flights.
V P Baligar, Infrastructure Secretary
There is a problem of connectivity. On March 29, the Prime Minister will throw open the airport for the public. The trumpet flyover, which was taken up by the NHAI was hit by legal battle due to land acquisition. It is one week since all the litigations were cleared. The state government has taken over the project now and L&T has been entrusted with the work. Ramp three that leads into the airport will be ready only by next year-end, so till then, passengers will have to go further down and take a U-turn and then get into the airport. The expressway being taken up at a cost of Rs 1,000 crore has been delayed, as final alignment has to be finalised. The Rs 3,700 crore high-speed rail link between MG Road and the airport has been proposed and a DPR is prepared by the DMRC. But some clearances are still pending. Both the project will be a reality in three to four years time.
Bellary Road is the only option as of now. As short term measure we have had discussions with BBMP and BMTC to provide support. Satellite check in at HAL airport, Shanthinagar BMTC Bus Station and HSR Layout Bus Station have been worked. Moreover, the BMTC will launch 40 Volvo buses exclusively for airport passengers. A cargo village will come up at the 408 acres land next to the airport and concessionaires will establish satellite pick up points.
P S Sandhu, BMTC Vigilance:
We will get 40 Volvo buses by March and by 2009, we will have additional 1,000 busses. Show us the road, we will put our best services — pick up services, check-in centres or cabin and check-in luggage service.

Devesh R Agarwal, president, BCIC
The international airport is 35 km away and we still don’t have any news about the integration of transport and transition plans. There is no second to the fact that most of the air travellers are from the knowledge industry and business sector who travel to cut time. What will people on short haul flights do?
The new business centres are coming up near Jigani, Varthur, Sarjapur, Whitefield apart from Electronic City, how will they travel to the airport. With days being numbered for HAL airport to close there are no standard operating systems in place for customs clearance of cargo for the agents. On the one hand, we aren’t sure how the cargo will be handled after March 28 as the month sees the largest freight services being used by the traders and on the other, we are not how we will reach the airport. Our suggestion is to keep the HAL open airport for flights to Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.

S Subramanya, Commissioner, BBMP
The BBMP’s scope ends at the Hebbal flyover. From Vidhana Soudha to Hebbal, we will widen the road by 45 meters. There are six bottlenecks en route and we are spending Rs 12.6 crore to set them right. We are going for elements — pre-cast underpasses that will be placed in a day or two. In 45 days, we will complete the project and this is done in accordance to Indian Road Congress.


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