Tribune News Service
Ludhiana, April 28
The city’s hope for the fulfillment of the long-pending requirement for air connectivity has rekindled, with city’s name enlisted in the Central Government’s ‘regional connectivity’ scheme. Regular flights connecting the city to Delhi might come up by August.
The flights will start under the UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik) scheme of the Central Government, which will allow at least half the tickets at subsidised airfare.
Sources said two airlines had shown interest in plying from the Sahnewal airport city, including Spice Jet and Air Deccan. A team from the latter is expected to come for a survey to the airport. Sources say other airlines have already expressed that the runway length is inadequate for their flights.
Chartered flights from the airport are operational, but regular commercial flights have not yet become viable here.
Speaking about the scheme, Amardeep Nehra, airport Director, said 50 per cent of the flights would be available at the price of Rs 2,500 and the rest of the seats would be available at the market rates. He said two aircrafts of different sizes were available with Air Deccan. They would about the flights after a survey. A 42-seater aircraft had successfully flown from the airport.
He said in the first phase, dedicated Ludhiana-Delhi flights would be started. Other cities such as Mumbai would later be added, according to the need and demand of the industry.
Though flights had been started from the airport earlier as well, due to several factors such as the delay in flights, visibility issues, the flights had to be stopped.
Industrialists here had been frustrated over the lack of air connectivity in Ludhiana. They said the SAD government highlighted the issue, but an airport at Bathinda was set up instead. “It was a shame that an airport was set up at Bathinda, instead of providing infrastructure for the Ludhiana airport,” said an industrialist. “Hopefully, flights will now be started. The government must expand and develop the airport here, which is essential for the growth of the industry,” he said.
Captain Vivek Bharti, a commercial pilot, said he was the project head for the district. Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu said the government had ordered to start the flight before August 30. “After the survey is complete, we will try to start the flights by June,” he said.
Upgradation of the airport hangs fire
Though industry bodies have long been demanding an upgrade for the airport, the process for acquiring more land for the expansion of the airport was still in limbo. Nehra said facilities for flights were available at the airport.
As the Centre has given a clearance to the construction of new Greenfield Airport at Machhiwara last month, the hope that the airport will be upgraded has been dashed. The proposed airport is farther by 40 km than the Sahnewal airport, which is around 15 km from the city.
The upgrade of the Sahnewal airport has been hanging fire. According to officials at the airport, a flight for Delhi was discontinued in mid-nineties. Then Air India had started Ludhiana-Delhi flight with its ATR-42 aircraft in 2010, but was also discontinued in 2014 due to poor visibility and erratic timings.
The SAD-BJP government made plans for increasing the length of the runway and expansion of the airport, but it did not materialise it.
In 2013, GLADA had conceptualised a 1600-acre Waterfront City project with an integrated industrial park, commercial pockets and residential areas.
The project envisioned expansion of the Sahnewal airport also, but it had to be disposed of due to monetary crunch.
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