Private companies’ ambition to modernise the Chennai airport on the lines of similar projects in Delhi and Mumbai has fallen flat following a political veto by the Tamil Nadu government which has forced the Centre to shift its preference to the old state monopoly, the Airports Authority of India (AAI).

The modernisation project, expected to be completed by 2010, is estimated to cost at least Rs. 2,350 crore, though it could be revised up further.

Sources in the Civil Aviation Ministry told Hindustan Times that the DMK government at Chennai moved to rule out private developers through a public-private partnership route for the project, which involves the restructuring of the airport which is a key hub for one of India’s fastest growing regions involving traffic that connects to South-East Asia.

The present airport in Chennai handles about 25 aircraft movements per hour and its capacity is expected to be saturated by the 2014-15 fiscal year.

The DMK in Chennai and the Left Front government in Kolkata have been ideologically opposing private sector development. The ministry was pushing for private participation in the modernization of Chennai’s airport but the DMK, which is a key partner in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s coalition, appears to have prevailed.

While a greenfield private sector-led international airport is coming up in Bangalore, not far away from Chennai, built by a Siemens-led consortium, the other southern metropolis which is a key centre for both IT and auto industries will still be under the hold of the AAI.

The Committee on Infrastructure headed by the Prime Minister gave the AAI a go-head for the proposed development, overruling the ministry’s ideas.

Ministry officials said AAI will soon invite bids from airport developers on designing infrastructure for the proposed upgrade of Chennai airport while keeping the main development under its own control.

“The AAI will soon invite bids from airport designers for a feasibility study. Following which the AAI will select the consortium for redesigning the airport,” the official

According to a ministry official the first phase of the airport will be completed by 2010 following which the airport will be able to handle about 14 million passengers annually.

On development the new airport will have 72 check-in counters for international passengers and 62 for domestic passengers.

Further clearances are needed from the Public Investment Board and state-level authorities before the contract details are finalized and construction contracts are awarded.

The project involves Rs. 1,100 crore for construction of runway, taxiway and apron at the airport. The construction of a terminal building, a cargo building, a car park and a facelift are estimated to cost around Rs 1,250 crore. Source:hindustantimes