Amidst large-scale protests from the Telugu Desam Party and BJP workers along with prohibitory orders by the Cyberabad police, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Friday formally inaugurated the country’s first greenfield airport at Shamshabad, near Hyderabad. Christened as Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, the facility is about 30 kms away from the main city and will commence commercial operations from March 16, 2008.
Speaking at a special function at the airport, Sonia Gandhi said that entry of private airliners has improved passenger traffic and air connectivity will fuel economic development in the backward regions. ‘’The airports are no more used only for passenger transportation but also for the cargo movement as well,’’ she added. With the increase in the number of airports, the export levels of perishable goods are also expected to go up. Besides, airports will fuel fresh investments and improve employment generation too, she said after lighting the lamp while inaugurating the Shamshabad airport.
Speaking on the occasion, Prafull Patel, civil aviation minister, said that the definition of airport has to be reframed as it is now an economic tool for the common mass. In 2004, there were over 50 airports, it is about 85 today and is expected to grow more in the coming years.
The new airport is developed under a unique pubic-private joint venture model between GMR group (63%), Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (11%), the Andhra Pradesh government (13%) and Airports Authority of India (13%). It has 105,300 sq m terminal to handle 12 million passengers per annum. The other buildings include ATC tower, technical building, cargo terminal with a capacity of 100,000 MT, an MRO, a CFR station and other utilities with a combined area of about 35,000 sq m.
The facilities in the airport lounge include: business centre, baggage with pick up & delivery facility, limousine service, gymnasium, shower facilities, massage services. It also has foreign exchange facility offered by Travelex and Wiezmann Forex. The banks like Yes, Axis, HDFC, Kotak Vijaya, Canara and ING Vysya are offering ATM facility. On the medical front, Apollo Hospitals is setting up a medical centre with permanent staff and paramedics. It will establish a 17-bedded medical centre with ultrasound/ECG and 24 hr emergency dental service.
A six-hour whirlwind tour of Sonia Gandhi in Andhra Pradesh include: inauguration of Pushkaram lift irrigation project in West Godavari district, an aerial survey of Indira Sagar project on Godavari river, visit