Madman Aadisht and I continue to link each other on this airport thing. Here is my latest thought. I’d written something of this sort in September 2006, on my first day at SABRE. Now, I present it again with a little difference.
Given the amount of land that it is sitting on, I think the Indian Railways needs to get into the business of building airports. We have two new airports ready – at Hyderabad and Bangalore, and the key concern for both is regarding how one is going to get there. This is where I think the Railways will be able to do yeoman’s service to the people of the country.
The basic idea is that the Railways should take it upon itself to build secondary airports to all major indian cities. Now there are 2 parts to this, the first being the airport itself and the second being a high speed rail link from the airport to the city. The second seems to be the big problem now, at least in the airports that have been built, and I think the Railways needs to step in.
As for the airport itself, I’ve read that India is full of airstrips. Airstrips that were built during the second world war and never used. Now lying in disrepair. The railways should identify one such for each target city, with the important criterion being that it should be close to some land that the railways owns. And voila, there you have it!
The actual building of the airport can be outsourced. We aren’t short of engineering and project management skills in the country. The railways should just concentrate on linking these airports to the train stations in the center of each of these cities with a high speed rail link (taking no more than half an hour. Given that new tracks will be laid, that shouldn’t be an issue). Also, I’m sure the railways won’t have much trouble in procuring land for the high speed rail tracks. Land for the airport shouldn’t be a problem since they are in godforsaken areas anyways.
So you’ll have a spanking new airport at Gummidipoondi, with bullet train connection to Madras Central. Or another airstrip in say Bidadi, just half an hour away be train from both Bangalore City and Mysore. And yet another in some other godforsaken place near Hyderabad, with excellent rail connectivity to Kacheguda (of course, care needs to be taken to not put the new airport in Naxal-infested areas).
We need all the approvals from the civil aviation ministry and all that. Lalu should be able to manage that. Technology and all that is there. And I’m sure the Railways can make enough money out of this venture to invest in it. That won’t be a problem. And as a small concession it would be ok to have all laborers and workers involved in the new airport to be Bihari.
On a more serious note, I think any forthcoming greenfield airport should start off by first entering into partnership with Lalu.??