In a mega infrastructural push for Tamil Nadu, the Centre has green signalled the construction of a second airport in Chennai at a whopping investment of ₹40,000 crore.
As proposed by the Tamil Nadu government, the airport may come up at Pannur in Thiruvallur district or Parandur, in Kancheepuram district.
Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia has called for a high-level meeting in New Delhi on June 16 (Thursday) to chalk out an initial strategy for the airport. The meeting will be attended by Tamil Nadu Industries Minister Thangam Thennarasu besides senior officials of the Civil Aviation Ministry.
While Pannur and Parandur have been identified for the project, Scindia said the work for the project will start by early September this year. “By 2024 Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants a second airport in Chennai. This is the dream of Modi, let me fulfil it,” Scindia has said.
During a meeting with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin, Scindia offered 51 per cent central assistance for the project.
The proposed airport, which is likely to operate flights to eight international destinations, is expected to provide employment to at least 1.5 lakh persons in the next eight years.
To raise finances, Stalin has proposed a tripartite solution with TIDCO and a foreign investment. Eight public sector banks are likely to be roped in for the airport.
First things first – surveys, obstacle removal
But before an airport is contemplated, a few important surveys need to be done.
One of them is the Obstacle Limitation Surface (OLS). The survey has to be carried out at Pannur and Parandur because they have obstructions. Scindia said the Airports Authority of India (AAI) had found Pannur and Parandur more feasible for the airport project due to the availability of air space as the sites are free from natural obstructions. However, man-made obstacles like smoke-producing industries still pose a problem.
“The government of India has formulated the greenfield policy for construction of a greenfield airport, for which the Tamil Nadu state government/airport operator has to identify site(s) and get the feasibility study conducted,” Scindia said.
He also spoke about various expansion works lined up for the Chennai airport.
Why Pannur and Parandur?
For the proposed second airport, the Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation (TIDCO) was tasked with identifying the land, and Scott Wilson Kirkpatric was appointed as a technical consultant.
The Tamil Nadu government had earlier shortlisted four sites – Tiruporur, Padalam, Pannur and Parandur – for the proposed airport. The Aviation Ministry cut down the list to Pannur and Padalam.
A greenfield airport for Chennai requires at least 2,000-3,000 acres of land. Now, TIDCO will hold discussions with the state government on the next course of action for choosing a site.
The application is sent by the Tamil Nadu government to the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation in the prescribed format for site clearance and in-principle approval by the steering committee.
Thiruporur will be the closest from the existing Chennai airport in Tirusulam and the travel time is about a little over an hour while it takes nearly an hour-and-a-half to commute from the present airport to Pannur and Padalam. Parandur will be the farthest and it will be a two-hour journey from Tirusulam.
Before the pandemic, the city airport grappled with severe bottlenecks as the terminals couldn’t handle the traffic, with passengers bearing the brunt of it. There was no end in sight for finalising a site for the second airport too as the possible sites were considered and there was no decision taken.
The state government has informed the AAI to soon delegate a team of officials to inspect these sites and carry out a feasibility study. This study is done to know whether a specific site will have sufficient space for establishing all the infrastructure needed for the new airport and also to make sure there is no interference with the Tambaram Air Force traffic or has any other obstructions, sources said.
An AAI official said that more studies, including technical studies, will be undertaken after the state government selects a final location. The locations on the Bengaluru highway would be beneficial for the industries in the Sriperumbudur region.
“The highway would facilitate easy access from the city,” the official said. “There can be plans to improve the road and to build rail or mass rapid transit system services for better connectivity in the future.”
The erstwhile AIADMK government was considering Parandur, but the plan did not materialise. TIDCO had floated a tender but bidders backed out as a site was not finalised by the government. As there was a delay, the AAI considered different options.
There were discussions for a scaled-down facility on 2,000 acres or a full-fledged facility on around 4,500 acres. There were also discussions within AAI to move international flights to the new airport and develop it into an ‘aero city’ with MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) unit and aviation ancillary industries.