Seeks economic feasibility study before taking major decisions

Taking exception to the revival of plans for the expansion of the Mysore airport, an expert has called for an economic feasibility study before pumping in public money into it.

The expansion entails increasing the runway length from 1,740 metres to 2,400 metres to facilitate the operation of wide-bodied aircraft like Boeing and Airbus. But this hinges on diversion of the Mysore-Nanjangud stretch of National Highway 212 which is to be four-laned due to high traffic density as their alignment bisect each other.

The Bharatiya Janata Party government dropped the expansion plan two years ago after which the NHAI took up the tendering process to four-lane the Mysore-Nanjangud stretch, which is in final stages. The NHAI planned to four lane the Mysore-Nanjangud in view of high traffic density – over 18,000 Passenger Car Units (PCU) and it is mandatory as per the NHAI norms that roads with over 8,000 PCU be four-laned.

Meanwhile, there were fresh efforts by various stakeholders recently who urged Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to rescind the decision and to give consent for realigning the road to facilitate the runway extension.

Major General Sudhir Vombatkere (retd), a structural engineering expert and environmentalist, pointed out that the highway widening plan was conceived after obtaining clearances from the State government and hence the renewed efforts to expand Mysore airport was simply a change of mind but without evidence of any economic feasibility study.

Such investments based upon some wish-list for air connectivity is not a sign of good governance - the plank on which the present Congress government ousted the BJP, said Mr.Vombatkere. “In any case, investment to expand and encourage the most energy-intensive mode of transport in times of rising fuel prices and falling fuel availability, indicates a certain lack of long-term perspective and ad-hoc-ism based on vague ideas”, he added.

With the economics of present usage clearly negative, the proposed extension and upgradation to allow operation of wide-bodied Airbus A320 or Boeing 737 aircraft - which call for higher passenger demand - may only make a small white elephant bigger, Mr.Vombatkere opined.

“It is fair to ask the proponents for airport expansion whether the funds proposed to be spent on this work would be better spent on alternative purposes that will benefit a larger section of Mysore's population. Government surely owes the public a clear demonstration of promised good governance”, he said. The Mysore airstrip was upgraded and modernized at a cost of Rs.82 crore but there was no evidence that any economic feasibility study was conducted before making the investment, according to Mr.Vombatkere.

“Admittedly, Mandakalli airport is under-utilised, and present operation of the airport is economically unviable, since recurring infrastructure maintenance and salary costs exceed income from such minimal air operations. “Only a deliberate economic feasibility study of the airport will indicate how many assured passenger flights per day based on agreement with a commercial carrier will justify the investment of public funds”, he added.

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