While construction work for expansion of KIA in Phase-II is yet to commence, the airport is already bursting at the seams with burgeoning passenger traffic
Reports in the media indicate that Bengaluru International Airport Limited (BIAL), the company that operates the Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) at Bengaluru, is to construct the second runway which will be parallel to and on the southern side of the existing runway.
The proposal for a new international airport at Bengaluru was initiated as early as in 1995 when it became clear that the existing airport owned by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), located in the centre of the city, would not be able to cope with the explosive growth in civil air traffic anticipated in the wake of the liberalisation in the Indian airline industry in the early 1990s and the continuously growing Silicon City of India. Military air traffic at HAL airport was already considerable as it was used for intensive test flying by its own National Flight Test Centre as also by the Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment of the Indian Air Force (IAF) that carries out test flights required by the organisation as well as conducts regular courses to train test pilots. On account of its location in the city centre which is densely inhabited, there was practically no scope for acquisition of land for expansion of HAL airport even if there was a requirement or the will.
The project began as a public-private joint venture between Switzerland’s Zurich Airport, Germany’s Siemens Project Ventures GmbH, Government of Karnataka and Airports Authority of India. The actual construction work could commence only a decade later in July 2005. The originally planned capacity to handle 6.5 million passengers annually was enhanced to 12 million. This entailed extensive redesign and cost escalation. However, despite the large number of changes in design, the airport was inaugurated on May 24, 2008, in less than three years after the construction had begun. In 2013, it was renamed as Kempegowda International Airport after the founder of Bengaluru.
Inspired by the healthy growth in passenger traffic, further expansion of KIA was envisaged to be undertaken in two phases. Phase-I included substantial increase in the area of the existing passenger terminal, was completed in December 2013 at a cost of Rs. 1,500 crore. With the completion of expansion as planned for Phase-I, the passenger handling capacity of the airport has been enhanced to 20 million per annum.
Expansion of facilities planned in Phase-II includes the construction of a second runway and a second terminal building. This will enhance the annual passenger handling capacity of KIA to 55 million. Annual handling capacity of air cargo will also go up from the existing 3,50,000 tonnes to one million tonnes. Target date for completion of Phase-II was laid down as 2020. While construction work for Phase-II is yet to commence, the KIA is already bursting at the seams with burgeoning passenger traffic.
While the airport operator BIAL had claimed that it had been granted all clearances including that for the second runway as part of the original airport master plan finalised and approved in 2004, the project hit a roadblock when it began to move forward on expansion plans as envisaged for Phase-II. In 2007, the IAF had raised objections to the proposal to construct the second runway south of the existing one as civil air traffic operating from it would come into direct conflict with military aircraft operating at Air Force Station Yelahanka. The IAF was apprehensive that reduction in the lateral separation between civil and military aircraft operating from two separate airfields in close proximity, just four km from each other, could seriously undermine aviation safety especially under conditions of high intensity operations by night, in poor visibility or in conditions of fog. A suggestion by the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) that the IAF consider relocating its flying training establishment to either the HAL airport or to any other airfield outside Bengaluru was considered to be neither practical nor a viable option. In fact, the question of shifting out apart, the IAF itself was considering building a second runway at its base at Yelahanka to cater for enhanced flying training commitments.
Suggestion by the IAF that the second runway at BIAL be built north of the existing one was not found to be feasible either. If this option was to be adopted, the MoCA would have to acquire around 1,600 hectares of land north of the airfield for expansion which on account of the rapidly growing habitation, did not appear to be possible. On the other hand, there was adequate land available on the southern side to build a runway and the second terminal building. Mercifully, the standoff between the IAF and the MoCA was resolved without much delay and BIAL was formally accorded the environment clearance by the Ministry of Environment, a critical milestone in the execution of the project. Finally, with all impediments out of the way, BIAL is poised to commence construction of the second runway and terminal building thus transforming KIA to a world-class airport!