Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that initiatives will be taken by the Union government to make airport facilities user-friendly to achieve higher levels of customer satisfaction, ensure the safety and security of airport operations and to develop multi-nodal transport linkages.

Inaugurating the Rs.300-crore world class terminal of Thiruvananthapuram international airport constructed by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) at a function in the terminal building near Chakka here on Saturday, Dr. Singh said the Centre's policy on airport infrastructure was to stay ahead of demand and to garner the maximum share of traffic in the region.

He said the government fully understood the importance of the civil aviation sector to Indian economy, particularly as it got more and more integrated into the global economy. It was well recognised that the aviation sector was not confined to the affluent and it was vital for the development of trade, industry and tourism which, in turn, created employment. “We have formulated various policies to give a boost to the sector,” he said.

Huge investment

The Prime Minister said creation of modern and efficient infrastructure at the airports to handle passenger volumes of high magnitude required huge investment. This created significant opportunities and challenges. The projected growth of the country's aviation sector had a potential to absorb investment of over $120 billion with attendant job creation for lakhs of people directly and indirectly.

Air transport in the country had witnessed unprecedented growth in the recent past. During the last seven years, domestic air traffic had tripled and international traffic more than doubled, Dr. Singh said adding that an exponential growth in passenger traffic was expected in this decade.

Pointing out that the Civil Aviation Ministry and the AAI had commenced the development and modernisation of the existing airports on a mission mode to create world class infrastructure, Dr. Singh said the roadmap already laid down was being implemented at a fast pace. He complimented the AAI for the commitment with which it had been building impressive infrastructure in the airports. The entire investment for the new terminal was met through internal resources by the AAI, he said.

Major transport hub

Dr. Singh said the world class terminal of the Thiruvananthapuram international airport and the country's first International Container Transshipment Terminal at Vallarpadam commissioned by him would give a big thrust to transport infrastructure and connectivity in the State. “These projects show the commitment of the government to develop Kerala as a major transport hub in the region. We wish to make full use of Kerala's locational advantages, excellent tourism potential and the talent and enterprise of its people,” he said.

Stating that these improved facilities would benefit thousands of workers from Kerala who were working abroad, the Prime Minister said “this is the least way we can do and it is just a small token of our appreciation for the hard work put in by dedicated workers and supporting their families back home and sending significant remittances.”

Lauding the efforts of Union Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi for the welfare of the Non-Resident Indians, Dr. Singh hoped that Mr. Ravi would also work with equal zeal and determination to change the skyline of the aviation sector of Kerala and the country.

Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan, in his address, sought Prime Minister's support for infrastructure development and the proposed International Container Transshipment Terminal at Vizhinjam. “We hope that Dr. Singh will intervene and that it will get reflected in the forthcoming Union budget,” he said.

Pointing out that the State was sidelined at the functions organised for the commissioning of the Vallarpadam terminal and the airport terminal despite the State government taking several initiatives, including providing land for the AAI, Mr. Achuthanandan said he was still happy that the projects had materialised finally.

He also demanded more flights in the Thiruvananthapuram-Delhi sector and steps to increase domestic flights from the State capital.

Besides Mr. Ravi, Union Minister for Defence A.K. Antony, Governor R.S. Gavai, Ministers M. Vijayakumar, V. Surendran Pillai, M.A. Baby, C. Divakaran, MPs Shashi Tharoor, A. Sampath, Leader of the Opposition Oommen Chandy, Mayor K. Chandrika, Director-General of Civil Aviation E.K. Bharat Bhushan, and top officials of the Civil Aviation Ministry, AAI, Air India, and other airlines participated.