Madness to close Begumpet Airport- Public Hardships & Private Benefits ఫిబ్రవరి 9, 2008Posted by Telangana Utsav in Appeals, Hyderabad, Telangana.
Shamshabad International Airport is going to be inaugurated on March 14. It is expected to take indian airports to new heights
But why it should kill Begumpet Airport or why that should make domestic travel unpleasant? Closure of Begumpet airport will make domestic flights meaningles if not stupid for Hyderabad. Because one has to spend about thousand rupees on user charges and another thousand on taxis to ferry you about 30 kilometres from Shamshabad. About Rs 2000 one needs to spend besides three or more hours for about 100 minutes airtime to any other city. Domestic air tickets now costing as little as Rs 2000 to Rs 3000, by some airlines, make traveling by Shamshabad a crazy proposition
Domestic travel will be like Chaai ka dho anaa, glasska baaraa anaa
Airports Authority Employees Union also opposed the move and appealed to Government of India to continue domestic flights from Begumpet. Seventy years old Begumpet Airport, sixth largest in India, had growth of 40% to 50% traffic and non-traffic revenues during the year. The proposed closure is in voilation of Common Minimum Programme of central government that promised not to privatise profit making PSUs. Closing the profit making Begumpet airport is disguised privatisation and causing hardships to the passengers.
Why should an airport that is very convenient to public be closed down to benefit a private airport?
Many big cities in the world have more than one airport. But with Shamshabad airport and the plans to close Begumepet, there cannot be one more airport in Telangana in future because the agreement made with GMR Hyderabad International Airport Ltd doesnot allow another airport within 150 kms radius which covers almost every other district of Telangana excpet Adilabad and Nizamabad.
Only civil society pressure can stop the foolish closure of Begumpet Airport and stop its conversion into some big mall or malls.
Reports from Times of India, The Hindu & Business Line with details FYI
Airport employees close ranks
S. Sandeep Kumar
Urge Government to continue operations at Begumpet airport
HYDERABAD: Airports Authority Employees Union (AAEU) on Tuesday made a strong appeal to the Government of India to continue operations at Begumpet airport even after Shamshabad airport became operational.
Members of AAEU across the country gathered on Hyderabad airport premises to conduct a mega public convention against the proposal of closing down Begumpet airport, the sixth largest airport in India, in the wake of commissioning Shamshabad airport.
They said the move to close down Begumpet airport would not only affect the livelihood of airport employees but would also result in causing great inconvenience to passengers, as Shamshabad airport was nearly 30 kilometres away from the city.
Moreover, heavy user charges will be collected from passengers at Shamshabad airport which would be an additional burden on them. Employees were not against opening of new airports but they should be made to establish on their own without closing the existing airports, said CITU National Secretary and former Chairman of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Civil Aviation, Dipanker Mukherjee, while speaking on the occasion.
“The government under the Common Minimum Programme stated that no profit making public sector units shall be privatised but by proposing to close down profit making Begumpet airport it was promoting privatisation,” he charged.
AAEU president S.R. Santhanam informed that the study committee appointed by the Government in 2002 recommended to Airports Authority of India that Begumpet airport had sufficient infrastructure to handle air traffic for next 15 years. With a workforce of over 500 regular and 5,000 contract employees, Begumpet airport operates over 250 scheduled flights per day of 10 domestic and 13 international operators.
The airport showed a growth of 39.25 per cent in traffic revenue collection in the first eight months of this financial year. The collections grossed at Rs. 99.86 crore as against Rs 71.71 crore in the corresponding period of the previous year. Similarly, the non-traffic revenue increased by 49.85 per cent at Rs. 28 crore as compared to Rs. 18 crore in the same period, he informed.
Mr. Santhanam said in the last couple of years over Rs. 350 crore were spent on Begumpet airport for developing infrastructure, including expansion of runway, construction of night parking bays, new aerobridge, procurement of navigational equipments etc. CPI MP Syed Azeez Pasha said the opinions collected from public during this convention would be presented to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Civil Aviation Ministry and would be discussed in the forthcoming budget session.
source: The Hindu, Hyderabad Jan 30, 2008 http://www.hindu.com/2008/01/30/stories/2008013057830300.htm
Govt to sell ‘sick’ airport
Times of India, Roli Srivastava , 26 Dec 2007, 0255 hrs IST , TNN
HYDERABAD: Contrary to its earlier plans to convert the Begumpet airport into a training centre or a remote check-in point for travellers once the Shamshabad airport becomes functional, the state government is now toying with the idea of developing, leasing or even selling it after the airport shuts shop in mid-March. According to sources, the state government is figuring out the total land that comes under the airport and is determining ownership details of this land. The land is worth thousands of crores in the present market situation.
About 2,000 acres of land comes under the Begumpet airport and the government has sought “full details” about this land from the Hyderabad and Ranga Reddy district collectors. While a major chunk of this airport land falls in Hyderabad, an estimated 700 acres is in RR district. Part of Begumpet airport stretches to RR district (from Bowenpally side) and comes under village called Begumpet in Balanagar mandal. Sources say the government wants to determine “the nature of the ownership of the land” and whether it was initially government land that was given to the Airport Authority of India (AAI) and if so what were the conditions laid at that point of time. The government also wants to know whether any private land was acquired then. Whether the land acquired or given was at the prevailing market value or at any other rate is also being determined.
“This is being done in case the Begumpet airport falls into disuse after it ceases to be operational to figure out what should be done with the land,” says a state official. Officials note that the Begumpet airport issue has come up in a few recent meetings, but its name surprisingly came up at a review meeting of sick units located on government land. It was during this meeting that land details of the airport was sought from the two district collectors. Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Cities/Govt_to_sell_sick_airport/rssarticleshow/2651079.cms
Let Begumpet airport be
Roli Srivastava, Times of India
Why can’t Hyderabad have two airports? This is the moot point of the public interest litigation (PIL) filed in the AP High Court by former IAS officer B V P Rao, who notes in his petition that letting the Begumpet airport remain functional would only help handle the burgeoning passenger and aircraft traffic that is expected to double over the next three to four years.
The petition notes that the only reason why Begumpet airport will be shut is due to “commercial considerations” of Hyderabad International Airports Ltd.Citing examples of New York that have five airports, Los Angeles that has four and London which has three, Rao argues in his petition that the increasing strain on airport infrastructure has led to cities having more than one airport, that too in close vicinity of each other. He cites the example of even a developing country like Kenya having two airports in Nairobi city.
The reasoning in the petition is not limited to international trends. The petition, which was filed last week, elaborates that the number of aircraft landings at the Begumpet airport has risen from 7,000 in 1996-97 to about 70,000 in 2006-07. The corresponding passenger movement figure shows a rise from 12.5 lakhs to 57.8 lakhs. The petition states that the exponential rise in aircraft, cargo and passenger traffic would be 30 per cent to 40 per cent every year and this is expected to double in three to four years.Cities that do not have a second airport would be required to develop one, the petition states, adding that “an available infrastructural facility like the existing Begumpet airport in Hyderabad.. cannot be permitted to be frittered away and go to seed”.
Besides, the Begumpet airport has been spruced up and is in a position to cater to the air traffic requirement for at least next few years. “As a second airport… it could continue to function and serve for more than 20 to 25 years,” Rao contends in the petition, adding that the airport is currently generating a revenue of Rs 150 crore for the Airports Authority of India and “has all the facilities for continuing as a second airport”.Moreover, the petitioner states that the necessity for multiple airports is also on account of the “air funnel factor” (the flight path in which the aircraft land and take off). “Even when there are more than one runways, that are parallel, the air funnel would remain only one,” the petition states, adding that this leads to congestion and consumption of precious aviation fuel, the cost of which would eventually be borne by passengers. “The proposed airport at Shamshabad would have only one air funnel and the problems that are already besetting major airports like New Delhi and Mumbai are likely to be replicated in Hyderabad,” the petition notes.
Taking into note the substantially high airport usage charges, the petitioner states that flight tickets would be more expensive and the new airport may just sound the death knell of budget travellers and budget airlines.The petitioner notes that it is the duty of the state and the Centre to ensure that a facility beneficial to the general public is not sacrificed at the “altar of commercial profit” for HIAL.
Searching for loopholes
When the chief minister announced on Monday that there would be an airport in every district of the state he perhaps forgot the agreement the state government has signed with GMR Hyderabad International Airport Ltd that there would be no airport in a 150-km radius of the one coming up in Shamshabad. This would mean there would be no airports at Mahbubnagar, Warangal, Khammam, Nalgonda, Karimnagar and Medak. Reportedly, however, the Airport Authority of India is planning an airport at Warangal and that the agreement between the state government and HIAL would not be an impediment since the airport would be located 150 km from Shamshabad.Maybe, the government will have to look for technical loopholes if it does plan an airport in any of these districts.
SO NEAR & SO FAR
Taking an hour-long ride to Shamshabad to catch a flight to Tirupati may sound cumbersome but will be a reality from March 16, 2008, when the Begumpet airport shuts down its commercial operations. But, why can’t Hyderabad have two airports , ask citizens who want Begumpet airport to stay open to cater to a ‘Greater’ Hyderabad’s much greater flying needs. Roli Srivastava finds out:
A hastily packed bag, a quick coffee, a last minute dash of hair gel and a fifteen-minute ride to the airport just in time for the security check in. This, in a nutshell, is the average frequent flyer Hyderabadis’ preparation for air travel. The Ides of March would change all that when taking a flight would no longer be a hop-skip-jump ride to the airport but involve a lot of planning, including a long drive to Shamshabad, where the new airport would be functional from March 16.
As things stand now, March 15 midnight would spell the end of Begumpet airport operations and as this date draws closer, protests are mounting from people who believe there is no reason to pull down the shutters of an existing facility and that it could still be used for domestic sectors.
The Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) wrote to the Airport Authority of India (AAI) about a fortnight ago asking for the Begumpet airport to remain functional even after the one at Shamshabad starts operations next March, saying that the airport’s functioning has been rather glitch-free. In a letter sent to the AAI headquarters, MIM requested for the airport to remain functional keeping in mind people’s convenience, an AAI official said.And concerns for the change in the airport address are not restricted to a political party alone. While citizen groups have of late started getting active protesting the closure, even budget airlines have voiced their concerns ever since the decision of stopping commercial use of the Begumpet airport was announced.
Technically, the airport won’t really shut down. Among the proposals being considered for its post-March 15 use include an AAI training centre (so far there is only one in Allahabad), a rail link from Begumpet to Shamshabad and even a remote check-in counter giving an option to travellers to check in here. “In any case, ATC and communication will be provided by us only for Shamshabad airport ,” says Begumpet airport director R K Singla. While the airport is already being used by the Air Force, it may also be used for providing aircraft maintenance facility and also for VVIP movements. “It will be operational for non-commercial activity but commercial operations will not be permitted,” says Singla.Whatever the proposals, the anti-closure brigade points out that it would be a criminal waste of resources to reduce a functioning facility to a non-commercial option that doesn’t help or affect citizens in any way. “In fact, keeping it open would only help in reducing congestion,” says V B J Chelikani Rao, president of International Foundation for Human Development, also a former Unesco official, pointing out that a swank Shamshabad airport may not be big enough to cater to the city’s ever-growing flying needs. “We had made a request (to the government) about three months ago suggesting that the Begumpet airport either remain functional or the government privatise it that will only lead to a healthy competition and would work very well for consumer satisfaction,” Rao says, reasoning that privatisation would only bring about better services to consumers.
Alternatively, if not privatised, the airport could continue to be used for domestic operations— a view that has many takers. With air travel now more accessible than ever before, citizens believe a distant airport would only work against those who take flights for neighbourhood destinations such as Tirupati and Vizag. “Visiting my family in Vizag on weekends and festivals is most of the time convenient by air and there have been occasions when I have planned my trips at the last minute. It won’t be so now with the airport moving to Shamshabad. It will not only add to the commute time but also to the cost of the commute until a link between the city and the airport comes up,” says software professional B Murthy.However, his problem with Shamshabad airport is not restricted to flying in domestic sectors alone. He says that it would be worse for international flights as one has to check in three hours prior to the flight time. Besides, would a rail link, if at all it ever comes up, solve the problem of those who do not really believe in ‘travelling light’.
Hyderabadis are convinced that while they are getting a brand new air port with facilities they would have only heard of but perhaps never seen, it may all appear a tad dull when the all-essential “convenience factor” is compromised.“Why shouldn’t we have two air ports? Shanghai has three, London has four and Hyderabad with its growing population badly needs a second air port,” says Dr K Ravindra Nath, managing director, Global Hospitals, pointing out that the existing facility has a well laid out infrastructure and huge investments have been made from public money and that it cannot go waste. Besides, the proposals for the future use of the airport will hardly be able to tap its potential. “A training centre should not be in the heart of the city,” says Dr Nath, scoffing at the proposal of having an AAI training centre at the Begumpet airport .
Besides, citizens point out that the government has completely discounted the fact that flying is no longer a luxury and that many people across social classes use the facility. A growing category of people who now fly more than ever before are senior citizens, and many of them on the international sector to meet their children settled abroad. “Earlier there were fewer senior citizens flying but now there is a good traffic not only from Hyderabad but from other parts of the state as well,” notes A V Subba Rao, who heads the CSIR Pensioners’ Welfare Association, citing the much-believed social statistic of every alternate house in AP has a son or daughter living in the US.Apart from political and citizen voices, budget airlines too have supported the continuance of the Begumpet air port saying that it should be allowed to continue for handling smaller aircrafts for not too distant destinations.
Deccan airlines (formerly Air Deccan), for instance, reportedly said that the Begumpet airport could be positioned as a regional hub and could be used to ease possible congestion at Shamshabad airport . Besides, travelling long distances to take short-distance flights is not a sensible idea, they say.P L Menon, member of the United Resident Welfare Association that comprises 15 resident welfare societies spread across the city, says that the Begumpet airport apart from being neat and clean airport with decent facilities, is equidistant from most locations— be it Jubilee Hills or Tarnaka. “It is within five to six km distance from any area,” he says. Echoing the sentiments of a large number of citizens, he asks, “Why shut it down?”
‘The Consumer is Forgotten’
Come March, Hyderabad and Bangalore will be faced with the same problem, and this time around it won’t be about incessant traffic snarls. Both IT hubs would have international world-class airports ready in the month of March but connectivity to both would be lacking. While the road to the Bangalore international airport is not likely to be ready until then, or even much later, the rail link from Hyderabad city to Shamshabad as of now appears a far fetched dream.
Making this observation, Kapil Kaul, CEO of Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, says that since there is a contractual obligation (of the government with the developer), perhaps the only solution to the growing citizen concern would be to expedite the implementation of proposed public transport plans.“It would take over three and half hours to reach the Bangalore international airport . The road (connecting the city to the airport ) may take about three years to complete,” Kaul says, adding that the issue is relevant for Hyderabad as well with the rail link to take another few years before it’s in place. This delay in having a sound public transport (and a good road in the case of Bangalore) would create huge problems, Kaul speculates, adding that “the consumer in the game is forgotten”.
A spokesperson of GMR, the company promoting the Shamshabad airport , said that issues of connectivity were being looked into in all earnest and that in the case of Hyderabad, the road would be ready by June. “It could even be earlier or a little late, but it won’t go beyond a couple of months. Compared to the scene in Bangalore, Hyderabad would be connected much sooner,” the spokesperson said.
Keeping the Begumpet airport functional at this point in time, Kaul believes, may not be a viable proposition since both the airports have largely a domestic led traffic and the international traffic is only building up currently.“When you talk about airports opening, they add to the value of the city. They become world class cities with world class airports . But, you need to finalise a solution (of making these airports accessible), which the govt has to ensure while keeping its contractual obligations,” he says, Airport Blues
Shamshabad is about 25 km from the city centre at Begumpet on the National Highway-7 that leads to Bangalore. Presently, it takes over 50 minutes to drive down from Punjagutta to the airport . From Secunderabad it will take another 20 minutes. This is the situation in moderate traffic conditions. If there are traffic jams, the time taken will commensurately increase.
Promoters of the airport are working to ensure that proper road connectivity to Shamshabad is provided. But the connecting roads will be ready at least a few months after the airport is open for business in March next year. For instance, only 5.5 kms of the 11 km long PV Narasimha Rao Expressway connecting Mehdipatnam with Shamshabad will be ready by February end and passengers rushing to catch a flight out of Shamshabad will have to brave the traffic before things smoothen out.
Airport authorities have envisaged a high speed train link between Begumpet (where the present airport is located and which is the present city centre) to Shamshabad. The train will have one stop: at Hi-Tec City and will traverse the entire journey in 23 minutes flat (inclusive of the stop). A feasibility study of the same has already been done by the Delhi Metro and it will take over five years for the rail link to be ready
CITU talks tough on Begumpet airport closure
Hyderabad, Jan. 29 The Centre for Indian Trade Unions (CITU) has opposed the move to close down what it called the profit-making Begumpet airport to facilitate the greenfield GMR Hyderabad International Airport at Shamshabad.
Mr Dipankar Mukherjee, National Secretary of the CPM-affiliated trade union, told Business Line on the sidelines of a national convention that the market economy should allow different players to compete. “Why should Airport Authority of India close its shop in favour of a private player’s shop? We will ask the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, whose market economy it is,” he said.
“They (private companies) talk about competition everywhere, but here they want us to close the public sector unit to favour them. Let them compete,” he said.
Mr Mukherjee, former Chairman of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Civil Aviation, was here to address the national level convention organised by the Airport Authority Employees Union (AAEU) to oppose the reported closure.
The concession agreement between the Centre and promoters of GHIAL mandates the closure of the airport for commercial operations from the day the new airport commences its operations. The GHIAL is scheduled to be inaugurated on March 16.
Taking a tough stand on the issue, Mr Mukherjee hinted at an agitation by the employees to stall the closure move. “They may have to look at the final weapon they have,” he said.
The CITU leader expressed concern that if it (closure of the existing airport) happened in Hyderabad, it could become a precedent and might pose a threat elsewhere, where the Government proposed to take up international airport projects.
source: Business Line, Jan 30, 2008 http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/2008/01/30/stories/2008013051112700.htm