Infrastructure
Urban planners say that while Bengaluru residents do need a second airport, Hosur is not the best bet.
taalaerodrome.com

Just 40 km from Bengaluru city is the Hosur Aerodrome, and the Tamil Nadu government is planning to build a domestic airport there.

The Tamil Nadu government has already signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Civil Aviation in this regard under the ‘Ude Desh Ka Aaam Naagrik’ (Country’s common citizen shall fly) or UDAN Scheme.

Considering the fact that Bengalureans constantly bemoan the distance from the city to the Kempegowda International Airport in Devanahalli, the Hosur airport, if constructed, can come as a breather for South and South-Central Bengaluru residents.

According to an article by Scroll.in, the residents of Electronic City and South Bengaluru will benefit the most out of this airport as it will only be a half an hour commute from Electronic City to Hosur as opposed to the two-hour drive to Devanahalli.

However, considering the terrifying bottlenecks which Electronic City is famous for, urban planners say that there will definitely be an increase in traffic jams on the route from Electronic City to Hosur, and that the traffic problem may even bleed into Tamil Nadu.

‘Hosur airport a long shot’

The Hosur Aerodrome is currently a private airfield established in 1994, and is maintained by Taneja Aerospace and Aviation Limited, an aircraft manufacturing company.

The airfield is used by some private chartered flights and by the Aeronautical Development Establishment of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for testing unmanned aerial vehicles, Bangalore Mirror reported.

Hosur Aerodrome has one asphalt runway, capable of accepting Airbus A-320 and Boeing 737 aircraft, and has night landing facilities.

However, the aerodrome may not be suitable for a commercial airport, experts say.

Although the proposed new airport could reduce the travel time for Bengaluru residents by two thirds, compared to the travel time to the Kempegowda International Airport, the possibility of an airport at Hosur is still a long shot, says V Ravichandar, an urban planner.  

“The facilities at Hosur need to be inspected and certified. In addition, the construction of the airport itself may take a few years, and it involves humongous costs,” he says.

Traffic woes to worsen?

Ravichandar says that if the airport does come up, it will worsen the traffic woes in the city.

“If the airport at Hosur does come up, and passengers can travel to metropolitan cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Kolkata rather than just smaller cities, this airport will be useful for Bengalureans,” he begins.

“However, the traffic will worsen on this stretch as residents of South and South-Central Bengaluru will rush to take this route, adding to the existing traffic,” Ravichandar warns.

He also says that unless elevated corridors are constructed to sustain the increase in traffic, it would become unbearable to cross this stretch considering the demand for an airport closer to the city.

‘Metro to Hosur unviable’

Traffic expert, MN Sreehari, who agrees with Ravichandar, says that the best way to ensure that the traffic movement can be controlled is to construct a metro line to the Hosur Aerodrome.

“This has to connect Jayanagar, Electronic City and Hosur, in addition to other parts of South Bengaluru. The airport in itself is a long shot and considering the snail’s pace at which the metro construction in the city is progressing, a metro connecting these areas will probably take another decade,” Sreehari says.

Ravichandar though says that constructing a metro line is not a viable option.

“Spending Rs 4,000 crore of public money on a high speed rail link from KSCA for a Rs 2,220 crore airport project is questionable, especially when alternatives exist,” he says.

Time to bring HAL airport back to life?

What Ravichandar is referring to is the old airport at HAL in Bengaluru.

The HAL airport was closed down in 2008 after the Kempegowda International Airport was built in Devenahalli. The Ministry of Civil Aviation signed a deal with Bengaluru International Airport Limited (BIAL) - the company that runs the airport; according to the deal, there can be no other airport within 150 km of the Kempegowda International Airport before the 25th anniversary of the airport’s opening date.

However, there have been a lot of voices in support of bringing the HAL airport back to life.

Ravichandar says that public-private partnership (PPP) models are imperfect and can be renegotiated, and that the government should do so with BIAL.

Win-win situation?

The urban planning expert argues that BIAL had put forth the condition at the time of opening to ensure that it does not incur losses. However, in 2008, KIAL was flying just around 10 million passengers per year and this figure has increased to over 22 million last year, Scroll reported.

“Clearly KIAL is not running under a loss and a second airport in HAL would be the best option for Bengaluru,” he says.

“I think market can decide the demand and adjust supply accordingly. For instance, the fare to Bombay from HAL airport can be Rs 5,500 and from BIAL to Bombay, it fare can be Rs 4,200. The difference is given to BIAL. This can be decided by auctioning slots too. BIAL could be made a shareholder in a HAL airport Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV),” he adds.