New Delhi: In a recent turn, Regional air connectivity in India is all set to get a major boost! The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently approved the extension of time and scope for revival and development of un-served and under-served airstrips of state governments, Airports Authority of India (AAI), Civil enclaves, CPSUs, helipads and water aerodromes. It is to be noted that the cost of the project is pegged at Rs 4,500 crore with the budgetary support of the central government. Because of this project, small cities/towns will be connected on commencement of operation of flights to under-served/un-served airports and it will further boost the economic development in these as well as surrounding areas in terms of job creation as well as related infrastructure development.
It may be noted that the civil aviation ministry has received an overwhelming response from the airlines in two rounds of RCS bidding held so far. In the first round of UDAN bidding, 128 routes were assigned to five airline operators for 43 un-served/underserved airports/airstrips on March 31, 2017. The responses from airline operators have considerably improved in the second round of RCS bidding wherein 86 proposals involving 325 routes were awarded to 15 selected airline operators in January 2018.
During RCS-UDAN version 1.0 and 2.0, 66 airports were identified and 31 heliports (28 unserved heliports and 3 unserved airports). During UDAN version 3.0, to increase the tourism potential at the coastal areas, tourism routes in coordination with the Ministry of Tourism and Seaplanes for connecting Water Aerodromes were included.
Worth mentioning here is that Finance Minister in his 2016 Budget speech, announced making adequate provisions for the revival of unserved and underserved airports. The Union Cabinet approved the proposal for revival of 50 un-served/under-served airports/airstrips of the State Governments, AAI, Civil enclaves and CPSUs. The revival of airstrips/airports will be 'demand driven', depending upon the firm commitment from airline operators as well as from the state governments for providing various concessions as Airports will be developed without insisting on its financial viability.