Grand plans are afoot for Amaravati. Several pieces in the grand puzzle called Amaravati are coming together. The land is there. Secretariat is ready. Employees have shifted / will shift shortly. Road projects are being taken up. Educational institutions have been offered land and will begin to construct. New trains have begun running and new railway lines will soon begin to be laid. Private investors like the BR Shetty group have made concrete commitments. And several countries like China, Japan, Singapore, Abu Dhabi etc / their investors have been showing renewed interest. All is well so far and leaves anybody with a feeling that within just about 2 years, things are really moving fast in Amaravati.
But there is a big missing link and that is the airport. Vijayawada, so far, just had a toy airport in Gannavaram. ( Read our earlier article HERE). It was just too small with a runway length that is just not enough to land any reasonably big aircraft. Its terminal was more of the size of a coffee shop. As a result, Vijayawada had woefully bad air connectivity. The government was quick to understand this. You can not create a brand new city without a world class airport. That is like building a brand new bungalow with a narrow 3 feet main entry door and expecting guests to pour in.
AP should be credited with taking up the expansion of Vijayawada airport at break neck speed.
- The major hurdle in the expansion of the runway of Vijayawada Airport, to handle large aircraft like Airbus A 320has been overcome with the acquisition of 698 acres.
- Approvals for phase I of runway expansion taking the total length of runway to 3,025 meters from the present 2,286, have been obtained and the expanded runway will be commissioned in one year time.
- Vijayawada Airport will have an additional 10 parking bays by this August end, and five of them will be operational by July 31.
- In the last four months, Vijayawada Airport saw operations increasing from 22 flights to 36 flights a day. Another four cities in the country got connected to Vijayawada on the air map taking the total connectivity to 12.
- In addition to Spicejet, Air India and Air Costa, Jet Airways too is keen to start its operations in Vijayawada shortly. Once the additional parking bays (night parking facilities) are completed, Indigo is expected to make Vijayawada their operational hub.
- Car parking facilities at the airport too is being revamped and by July 31 it will have parking space enough for 300 cars at a time.
All this is good news and shows commitment on the part of the state government. However this will be still very inadequate as this is not good enough for international connectivity.
- Foreign visitors, investors and dignitaries whose arrivals to Vijaywada will sky rocket in the next 1-2 years will still not have direct flights from their countries.
- Taking a direct flight to Dubai, London or Tokyo from Vijayawada might take some more time, as Ministry of Civil Aviation is yet to clear the proposal.
- The proposal for making the airport as customs airport, which will enable direct connectivity to ASEAN countries, which are on international flight routes, is still pending with the Ministry of Finance, as Customs department comes under its purview.
Even if all the above fall in place and international flights start from Vijayawada, it can still be only stop gap arrangement. A proper international airport like the existing ones in Hyderabad and Bangalore require at least 5000 acres of land and there is no way Gannavaram airport can be expanded to that extent as it is surrounded by houses on all sides.
The only option left for Andhra government is to start working towards building a brand new greenfield airport which can be operational in at least another 5 years. What one gathers from unsubstantiated gossip is the that AP government is pinning hopes on environmental clearances for using about 30,000 acres of degraded forest land in Mylavaram – Nuziveedu belt on the northern side of River Krishna. If that plan is cleared by the union environment ministry, Andhra will have no problems in allotting 5000 acres straight away for a brand new greenfield airport