‘Keep old airport open, do away with fee’
The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday put forth a suggestion that would help make air travel easier for Bangalore's frequent fliers.
The court suggested a modification of the concession agreement (CA) between the Union Government and the Airport Authority of India (AAI) and Bangalore International Airport Ltd (BIAL) consortium in order to keep the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) airport in the city open for commercial flights and to do away with the User Development Fee (UDF).
The new Rs 2, 470 crore international airport, about 37 km from the state capital, was originally scheduled to commence operations from March 30 but was put off to May 11 because of lack of adequate air traffic control facilities. Issues of poor connectivity too dogged the project with many citizens' groups seeking a postponement of the launch for lack of infrastructure.
Chief Justice Joseph Cyriac and Justice BV Nagarathna said "The Government of India and AAI are directed to renegotiate the CA with BIAL to make sure that inconvenience to travelling passengers is minimised if not completely removed."
The interim order was passed on four public interest litigations (PILs) against the closure of the state-run HAL airport. However, the bench said “At this juncture, the court is not inclined to give an interim stay on the closure of HAL airport owing to the jurisdictional and technical nature of the matter."
The PILs, which were admitted by the court on March 10, were filed against the closure of the present airport, lack of proper connectivity to the new airport and levying of user development fee (UDF) by BIAL on passengers. The CA, signed by the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation, AAI and BIAL in June 2004, stipulates that no other airport can be built in a radius of 150km from the new international airport (BIA).
Built on a public-private partnership (PPP) model, the BIAL consortium comprises Unique Zurich Airport and Siemens Project Ventures, Larsen & Toubro (L&T), with a combined equity stake of 74 percent and two state promoters - Karnataka State Investment and Industrial Development Corporation (KSIISDC) and AAI, holding the remaining 26 per cent stake.