The cloud over the fate of Bagdogra airport, the gateway to Darjeeling, Dooars and Siliguri for tourists and traders, is finally set to clear with the state government assuring the Airports Authority of India (AAI) that it will hand over the land needed for constructing a new terminal building, parking bays and taxi tracks linking the apron to the runway.
Sources said chief secretary Rajeeva Sinha had during an interaction with AAI chairman Arvind Singh said all formalities regarding the 104-acre plot had been completed and that the state would transfer it to the airport operator in February itself. This includes 5.9-acre defence land at the airport managed by Indian Air Force.
Though AAI does not purchase land for construction of greenfield airports or expansion of existing ones, it made an exception in case of Bagdogra and paid Rs 25 crore to get land from two tea gardens and solve the festering crisis that had set in over a decade ago when the passenger count exceeded the terminal capacity. Though AAI has since attempted to improvise and reduce the congestion through multiple measures, it acknowledges that the situation is now beyond redemption and the only solution is a new terminal.
“Though the terminal is designed to accommodate a maximum of 7.5 lakh passengers per annum, it handled four times the capacity or 29 lakh passengers last year. With passenger count continuing to grow, there is a limit to what can be done at the airport to keep it operational. A larger terminal is long overdue and the prospect of beginning work on it sometime next year will give everyone, including passengers, enough hope to bear out pain that they experience at present,” said an airport official.
If the land handover happens by this month-end, AAI will require around nine months to finalise the terminal design, apply for environmental clearance prior to floating the tender for construction. Once the jobs are awarded, the construction will take 36 months. The new terminal and allied infrastructure at a cost of nearly Rs 600 crore is expected to be completed by early 2024.
The proposed terminal and apron area, to be constructed in two phases, will increase the capacity by nearly 16 times. “The existing terminal has a capacity to handle 400 passengers an hour. The new terminal will be able to handle 3,800 passengers an hour,” said regional executive director S P Yadav.
While the current facility does not have any aerobridge, 10 have been proposed in the new terminal. Also, the number of parking bays will be increased from five to 16 to enable more flight operations. At present, the airport gets 35 flights daily. Also in the new plan are an apron area and two taxiways that link to the runway strip.
“It will be a modern airport with arrivals at the ground level and departures from the first level. The terminal will have a domestic wing and an international wing. All modern amenities will be on offer, including retail area and food court,” Yadav added.
Source: Times of India