Looks like the work on our new and modern airport is on track. Newspapers carry a progress report every month, they all seem happy with the progress. Actually, you can track the progress yourself at BIAL’s website. Here is how the runway looks like right now:
While you check out their website, have a look at the master plan of BIAL. Notice that the airport plans only include construction of immediate access roads from NH-7 that passes by the area.
What worries me is the plan and progress on general access to the airport from the City. Remember, the airport is 34 kilometers from center of the city (Vidhan Soudha). I live 14 kilometers from Vidhan Soudha. And it takes me 30 to 40 minutes to get there.
The comprehensive plans for the airport also include upgrading (six laning) a couple of highways (NH-6, NH-7) that go in the direction. These highway projects are not being executed by BIAL. And hence there is no easy way to track them. You try searching the NHAI website and tell me.
Even if NH-6 and NH-7 get upgraded in time, the upgrade plans don’t seem to include any faster access for people who don’t live in north Bangalore. From what I gather, we will have to struggle through either the city roads, or through a combination of ring and peripheral roads to hit Hyderabad road (NH-7), and then express on the next 20 kilometers or so. If you live in south Bangalore, say BTM Layout or Jayanagar, driving to Chennai may take lesser time than getting to the new airport and then taking a flight to Chennai.
Another plan not very clear right now is – what happens to the current airport. Will it be handed back to HAL, or will it stay on as an alternate airport? Deccan Airline MD Mr Gopinath has been vocal about having this airport around as a competition. I am afraid BIAL may have closure of the current airport as one of the pre-conditions for opening the new one.
Let us assume HAL airport were to be kept operational. Then, when the new airport opens, and if getting there takes over an hour from most places in Bangalore, I wont be surprised if passengers prefer to fly from HAL airport itself.
So here are my predictions.
- Headline, January 2008: First flight takes off from Bangalore international airport, few months ahead of schedule.
- Headline, May 2008: Access problems for the new airport, government goes back on its promise to shut HAL airport for civilian operations.
- (addendum) June 2008: BIAL sues Karnataka state government for not shutting down HAL airport.