Four years after inking a MoU with the Airports Authority of India (AAI) for expansion and development of the Vijayawada airport at Gannavaram, the Andhra Pradesh government has now finally decided to hasten the process of acquiring required land for the purpose.

Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy approved the land acquisition proposals and directed the State Finance Department to release Rs 76 crore required for the purpose, official sources in the CMO said.

The Vijayawada airport expansion has been hanging fire for the last four years as the State government failed to acquire the required 361 acres of land to expand the runway.

The airport, which is currently spread over 350 acres of land with an old terminal building, is handling only ATR-make aircraft with daily flights operated to Hyderabad, Chennai and Bengaluru.

The expansion plan includes extension of the existing runway to enable landing of bigger aircraft like the Boeing 737 and Airbus.

As per the MoU signed between the State government and the AAI in 2007, the Vijayawada airport expansion works, including construction of a modern passenger terminal building and hangars, should have been completed by 2009 but the inordinate delay in acquiring land has thrown the plans awry.

The expansion works were estimated to cost Rs 200 crore, official sources said.

While Kingfisher was the only airline that operated flights from Vijayawada so far, Jet Airways too launched its services this month while Spice Jet is expected to begin operations from July. Air India too has plans to operate flights to New Delhi and other destinations via Hyderabad, official sources said.

Vijayawada is known as the commercial capital of Andhra Pradesh and flight services from the city are much in demand, thanks to affluent people not only in Krishna but also neighbouring districts like Guntur and West Godavari.

Also, with the number of non-resident Indians from the region growing, the demand for more flights to major cities like New Delhi and Mumbai is also increasing.

Meanwhile, the Chief Minister also gave his nod for allocation of Rs 133 crore additional funds for acquisition of land related to the expansion of the Tirupati airport at Renigunta in Chittoor district. A sum of Rs 30 crore has been originally earmarked in the State budget for 2011-12.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh laid the foundation-stone on September 1 last year for the upgrading existing domestic airport at Tirupati into an international airport.

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