Man proposes, god disposes. The proverb is true in the case of the Visakhapatnam airport. A golden opportunity has knocked at the door of the airport when the Singapore Airlines announced its decision to launch the first-ever direct international tri-weekly flight from Visakhapatnam to Singapore with effect from October 1, 2012.
The problem is that the airport, which is under the joint control of the Indian Navy and the Airports Authority of India, operates only from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The airline wants to operate its flight after 10 p.m., and unless the watch hours are extended till midnight, it cannot proceed further and make arrangements for booking tickets and complete other formalities.
But, the way things are moving at the airport makes one wonder whether the government is really committed to the development of Visakhapatnam.
“Had it been some other State, they would have grabbed the opportunity with both the hands and pursued the matter to its logical end,” feel air travellers from the city. Due to the indifference of the powers that be, the second most important city in the State is being given a raw deal, be it development of the airport or the railways, they allege. “Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy has been talking of industrial growth and infrastructure development as never before in the State. The government should remember that better connectivity is a must to put the city on the fast track of development and to promote tourism,” the air travellers say. Visakhapatnam has the locational advantage, besides the much-needed infrastructure, both for rail and air connectivity. The airport has the infrastructure required for 24-hour operations. The only hitch is the shortage of manpower.
Similar is the case with regard to the lack of railway facilities. The railway station has eight platforms, but trains continue to be diverted via Duvvada, around 30 km away from the city.
There is sufficient railway land available and four more platforms can be developed so that shortage of platforms can be ruled out for the next few decades. “The highest revenue-earning division in East Coast Railway certainly deserves a fair allocation of funds.”
“A delayed decision on extension of watch hours at the airport may not only make Singapore Airlines ‘fly away’ from Visakhapatnam, but it can also send wrong signals to other international carriers planning to launch operations from Visakhapatnam,” the air travellers fear.
Keywords: Visakhapatnam airport