One of the most accident-prone areas of our city never finds mention in the traffic cop’s list of black spots –– the Indira Gandhi International Airport.
At least one accident happens every week and five people have lost their lives since last year.
One would expect an airport to have a secure and controlled environment but the chaos at IGIA’s airside is similar to the one unleashed by Blueline buses on the city roads.It’s a free for all inside the 5,100-acre airport and the apathy towards traffic rules is even more brazen.
Some would argue the rise in number of accidents at IGIA is in direct proportion with the rise in Delhi’s air traffic. While the number of flights has gone up many times in the last three years, the operational area and infrastructure has not. For the 600-odd flight movements from IGIA each day, there are about 3,000 vehicles catering to them.
But the aviation boom is not confined to Delhi. Mumbai airport is at a more disadvantageous position in terms of space.
As compared to Delhi’s 2,800 acres of operational area, Mumbai has only 1,450 acres to operate from Delhi has all the space to expand. Mumbai can’t since it is locked with slums and residential areas. But it still has fewer accidents. So why can’t Delhi manage if Mumbai can?
Mumbai airport, which is also managed by a private operator MIAL, has had special traffic officers armed with speed guns for a long time. DIAL, that manages Delhi Airport, was still checking speed limit of vehicles manually till recently. Both took charge of the respective airports on the same day.
Another problem faced by private airport managers is wielding authority. The sarkari (government) agencies and airlines that predate DIAL at the Delhi airport wouldn’t even let them challan a speeding vehicle on the tarmac. So no wonder, the ministry guidelines on airside traffic management are still on paper.
But perhaps the problem lies is lack of prioritisation. At the time of taking over, DIAL was not only entrusted with task of modernisation, it was also responsible for improving day-to-day operations.
Aviation experts following the privatisation process of Delhi and Mumbai airport say Mumbai is scoring better simply because it is working on passenger facilitation as much as the construction business. Its leaking roofs and non-functional air conditioners have been fixed much faster than in Delhi.
DIAL, on the other hand, seems to be jumping from one deadline to another, giving short shift to passenger facilities.