Devanahalli: a state-of-the-art disconnect

So our swanky new airport at Devanahalli is ready for operation. And Ramesh Ramanathan, social activist, Janaagraha co-founder, and Mint columnist, suggests that, when the PM and civil aviation minister come to Bangalore to open the airport this March end, they take a drive (rather than heli-hop to the venue) from Rajajinagar via West of Chord Rd., “battling the trucks across Peenya, getting stuck at the Yeshwantapur railway crossing, stop-starting across the 26 km highway stretch sliced by 23 junctions with tractors, bikes and pedestrians, before bouncing over a four-km dust-track to finally get to the spanking new airport”. 

For this is what aam aadmi would need to do to catch a flight out of Bangalore, from midnight, March 31. The present HAL airport will be shut down. BIAL (Bangalore International Airport Ltd.) may well be a shining example of public-private partnership. But its benefits for airport users stand neutralized by poor-serving road connection and lack of rail link to the new airport. Connectivity, Karnataka government’s responsibility in the airport project, hasn’t been a priority issue with the powers that be. You don’t have to be a public affairs pundit to guess the reasons.

As BIAL’s chief executive officer Albert Brunner told the Bangalore media, “how does it help me, if I blame someone?” Mr Brunner let it be known that he had been telling the state government repeatedly that a rail link to the airport was a must. As for road connectivity, he said: “This ring road is a joke”. 

Maybe it doesn’t help Mr Brunner and the consortium he represents to go into who had bungled, where, for what, with whose connivance. But the rest of us would like see a high-powered commission set up, for what it is worth, to bring to light why the connectivity issues were not addressed by the authorities for so long.

Meanwhile, BIAL has offered to bear the cost of developing the rail infrastructure within the airport premises; and hold 10 percent equity in the company to be created to implement the elevated link project. Is this something that is unrelated to the Bangalore Metro work in progress?

I have a few more naïve questions:

Would it be feasible for BIAL to raise its equity stake in the rail-link project? Would this help speed up project implementation?

How late in the day is it for BIAL to think in terms of taking over the city-airport Metro rail segment for execution under BOT (build, operate and transfer) arrangement?

Mr Brunner says it is economically not feasible for airline operators and the companies associated with BIAL to allow commercial operation of HAL after Devanahalli opens. His point is BIAL has invested Rs.2,500 crores, and that HAL shut-down has been written into its agreement with the government. Even those who plead for HAL’s continued functioning wouldn’t want the government going back on its agreement with BIAL. This would send negative signals to investors in our infrastructure projects; and could put an end to public-private partnership in future, in Karnataka at any rate.

My question is: Is there a way in which BIAL takes over HAL operations till such time the connectivity issue gets resolved? Is there a provision for franchising HAL’s commercial operations in BIAL’s favour? Could BIAL be persuaded to sign a contract pertaining to HAL, as an add-on to the current agreement relating to Devanahalli ?

Cross-posted at SiliconIndia

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3 Responses

  1. Here are my answers to the following questions
    1.How does one build an airport and
    2.Why does it cost 2500 crores to build it?

    A 1.
    Recipe for building airport:
    Ingredients
    1. 4000 acres of land
    2. 4 nice roads on them, suitable for landing heavy planes
    3. Radar equipment
    4. About 10 big sheds for parking planes, each 2 acres in area
    5. Two even bigger airconditioned sheds for passengers, officials, cargo, baggage
    6. One big field for parking cars
    Procedure.
    Clean up ingredient 1
    Add ingredient 2 judicially on ingredient 1
    Ingredient 3 to be sprinkled on ingredient 1
    Add the other ingredients and season with a few thousand meetings
    Note: DO NOT CONNECT TO CITY BY ROAD OR RAIL. THAT IS A SEPARATE DISH ALTOGETHER.

    A 2

    Cost issues.

    Ingredient 1 – @ 5 laks per acre, Rs. 200 Cr.
    All other ingredients – Rs. 200 cr.
    When I added these two numbers usinng my Cray Supercomputer, it yielded a figure of 400 Cr, and not 2500 Cr as the authorities claim.

    Now, where did that 2100 cr go?

  2. My worry is not the bottlenecks; but our lack of priority in setting these removing these bottlenecks. Not quite surprising since, all that our leaders have been doing is opposing and destroying; rather cooperating and constructing. We get only what we deserve! No other way but just to put up with it!

  3. People who complain that they also need HAL airport are those who have bought big houses/villas and stay in the neighbourhood on the HAL airport. I stay in Malleswaram and probably travel by air as much as (if not more than) the people who are bent upon keeping the HAL airport open).

    On numerous occasions I have been held up in traffic on way to the HAL airport. For me (like many others who live in North Bangalore) going to the Devanahalli airport will make life a lot easier.

    I suggest that all those who complain take a ride to the new international airport one of these weekends and see the quality of size of the roads that have already been laid and in use today.

    Devanahalli airport is the way to go. Go BIAL.

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