The aviation ministry cleared a proposal on Thursday to set up a second airport in the national capital region (NCR) that’s likely to halve passenger traffic at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport, which handled nearly 41 million travellers in 2014-15.
Minister of state for civil aviation Mahesh Sharma said the plan will now be sent to the cabinet for its approval, with sources saying the facility will likely come up in Greater Noida’s Jewar where the government acquired 2,378 acres of land for the project.
Ministry officials said it should take around three years to build the new airport and a lot of land was still available in the region for acquisition. “We are talking to the UP government in this regard,” announced Sharma, who represents the area in Parliament and has backed the Jewar project in the past, but he also said the ministry was exploring other options.
The Jewar airport plan was first mooted in 2001 by home minister Rajnath Singh, who was then the Uttar Pradesh chief minister, and later pushed by his successor, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati.
The project got the cold shoulder after the Samajwadi Party came to power in the state, but sources said the Akhilesh Yadav government had now shed its opposition to the venture.
“If and when the new airport comes up it would easily take away half of the passenger traffic from Delhi’s IGI airport,” said aviation expert Rajji Rai.
The GMR Group, which operates the airport in the Capital, will be the preferred developer and have the right of first refusal for the new project.
Some experts said the step will adversely impact both passenger traffic and revenues of Delhi’s IGI airport which, with a capacity of 62.5 million passengers and 1.5 million tonnes of cargo, was nowhere near its saturation point.
It saw a traffic of 40.9 million travellers and 0.7 million tonnes of cargo in the previous financial year.
“There is ample scope for future growth in both passenger and cargo (at IGI airport). Two metro stations, at T3 and Aerocity, already function at IGI carrying thousands of passengers every day. A third metro station at T1D is in an advanced stage of construction,” said an industry source.
Sources said the government will also amend the rule that disallows a second airport within a 150-km radius of an existing one that is yet to reach saturation in a bid to clear the way for the new facility that could initially cater to only general aviation aircraft. However, ministry officials denied any such move.
“It would have been too late had the government waited for IGI to reach its capacity and then decided for a second airport,” an industry representative said. “It shows good long-term planning on the aviation ministry’s part.”