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Wanted: a second airport for Chennai
THE NEW  terminal at Chennai is experiencing several issues including shortage of personnel to man customs, immigration, security and other areas. The smooth switch- over to the new system at the Delhi and Mumbai airports provide the contrast and lead to the realisation that the management skills demand a much higher level of expertise and capabilities.

At Chennai, the commissioning was delayed initially in coordinating the requirements of different agencies and later in getting the VIPs to inaugurate it. Like in Kolkata, there was expectation of  participation by the President/Prime Minister and the Chief Minister. Disappointingly, this did not materialise. Keeping the facility idle for months led to equipment decay. Air conditioning, lifts, baggage handling and other sections installed well ahead were kept idle. In the case of sophisticated equipment, such idling does interfere with efficient performance.

The restrictions of space and the initial expectations of additional land did come in the way. Even now, the second runway constructed at considerable cost, cannot be fully operationalised due to several clearances needed.

In the meantime, traffic has been registering steep increase. An estimate states that the present expanded capacity will be saturated in the next 3-4 years. Hence the need for a new greenfield airport. Close to 5000 acres have been identified at Sriperumbudur, on the Chennai-Bengaluru national highway. A quick decision is needed to construct this airport  that can take care of the requirements of the coming decades. AAI this time appears reconciled to involve experienced private participants in this project that at the final stage would involve an investment of around Rs 20,000 crore to build capacity to handle 60 million passengers. The state should take a  proactive role in getting this facility quick.

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