CHENNAI: After more than eight years of delays and debates, the Chennai airport expansion project is finally set to take off. Work will begin on the Rs.1,800-crore project next month and will be completed by June 2011, more than eight years behind the initial AAI schedule, Airports Authority of India sources have told The Hindu .
Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi also confirmed on Saturday that the foundation stone for the project would be laid in June. The expansion and modernisation project was delayed by problems in acquiring 1069.99 acres at Manappakkam, Kolappakkam. Tharapakkam and Gerugambakkam the State government had marked out, following writ petitions filed by residents.
The Madras High Court on March 28 dismissed the petitions and directed the Kancheepuram District Collector to begin issuing notices to 947 landholders.
The AAI has confirmed that utilising the acquired land, it will construct a second runway, parallel to the existing 12,000-feet main runway, and extend the 6,500-foot cross runway that has been in operation since December.
The AAI envisages having two parallel runways in operation will significantly enhance the airport’s handling capacity to 50 flights an hour, and allow it to meet the demands of air traffic until at least 2016. Chennai airport can currently handle 28 aircraft movements an hour.
The AAI will shortly also begin work on expanding and modernising the domestic and international terminals. It will construct additional domestic and international terminals on either side of the existing terminal building. When completed, the four-building integrated terminal will be able to handle 20 crore passengers annually — double the current capacity.
A senior AAI official says the go-ahead for the expansion plan and added capacity will give them more breathing space to complete the greenfield airport project in Sriperumbudur, which was initially slated for completion in 2015.
The State Government is now considering constructing a railway line from Avadi and an expressway to the proposed site, in order to avoid the connectivity problems seen in Bangalore and Hyderabad. Given that the Ministry of Civil Aviation has indicated that existing airports will not be closed when Greenfield projects are ready, come 2016, Chennaites can expect to have two airports to fly home to.