Thursday, July 10, 2008

More about the Airport.... (Contd.)

Last time, we left off where the Airport is poised today with a brand new, world-class terminal to be finished in 2008 and a massive MRO facility to be operational in early-2009. So where does the Trivandrum International Airport go from here?

There are a number of plans in progress for the continued growth of India's fifth and one of its fastest growing International Airports. The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has big plans for Trivandrum.

Further Terminal expansion

Phases I & II of the New Terminal will create nearly 350,000 sq.ft of space by end-2008/early-2009 with up to five aerobridges to handle a total of up to 8-10 international flights at a time. At this time, domestic operations will continue on the Beach side terminal complex, where the existing International terminal (T-2) will be taken over for domestic flights, providing much needed capacity.

The construction of Phases III & IV will commence once the 100-odd acres of land being acquired by the Govt. on the banks of the T.S. Canal are handed over to AAI. Progressively, about one million sq.ft. of space will come up in the expanded terminal which will eventually take over domestic operations as well.

At this time, the Beach side complex would be completely decommissioned and razed to the ground.

The question of how this space would be utilised is open. Some of the possible options include:

- Using the area for construction additional terminal space for future expansion of the Airport. But this would mean that the new terminals would be as circuitous to reach as the current terminals, unless something path-breaking - like a road tunnel under the main runway - is built.

- The area can be handed over to the Indian Air Force/Coast Guard. Trivandrum's strategic importance is increasing by the day with the coming of massive developments like the Vizhinjam Port, Aerospace Command and defence manufacturing units like Brahmos. The Air Force is increasing its presence in the South to extend its reach over the Indian Ocean where China is trying to exert its influence. (This has become a burning topic, enough to spark wide coverage in the global media like this or this.) With the Southern Air Command headquartered in Trivandrum, the IAF would surely love to have more space to park a few long-range Mirage 2000 or Su-30 MKI strike aircraft here. The flip side is that an expanded military presence could hinder civilian operations.

- A new Cargo Terminal and/or Refuelling Hub can be setup.
With its strategic location at the tip of India and on major international air routes, Trivandrum is possibly the best choice for an international air cargo hub in India. India's largest and deepest container transshipment port coming up just 15 Kms from the Airport is a big boost to this concept. Airports like Memphis International, Hong Kong or Anchorage. India's rapidly growing trade with South-East Asia, China and the US will help boost the cargo traffic. Another business opportunity is to have a re-fueling hub at Trivandrum to cater to the hundreds of aircraft which pass overhead daily, most of which today refuel at Singapore by making a costly deviation from their flight paths. However, this will necessitate the lowering of duties on jet fuel to make it attractive for international airlines to refuel here. The main spin-off will be the massive increase in international connectivity due to the flights which land here for fuel.

- Use the space for non-aeronautical uses. The demolition of the existing Terminals - T-1 and T-2 - will leave nearly 50 acres of prime land open for redevelopment. Possible uses could include an IT/ITES park, hotels and/or a R&D - manufacturing facility for the aerospace industry. The space could be developed on a PPP basis with private developers building and operating the facility while AAI gets a share of the revenue.

A New Airport

Eventually, in perhaps less than 10 years' time, the current airport will become saturated as its metro brethren have already become. Even by acquiring small additional parcels of land, TIA may not be able to meet the demands of a metropolitan city with over 200,000 IT professionals alone. The final bottleneck could be the runway itself. Bounded in by the sea, waterways, roads and the railway line, there is almost no chance of building a second runway in TIA (I say "almost no" instead of just plain "no chance" because of mind-blowing engineering feats like this.)

The only real solution to accomodate the ever increasing traffic would be to build a brand-new airport away from the city. Not too far away of course, as Bangalore and Hyderabad are learning to their expense, but outside the urban area. A location close to Attingal or slightly beyond will be ideal, in terms of availability of space and the land cost. Just 10 Kms from the periphery of the city and 25 Kms from the city centre, the new Trivandrum International Airport will be easy to access, especially if a Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) or Light Rail (LRT)route is put in place along with the existing NH-47. The new Airport will also be closer to Kollam and Pathanamthitta districts and will also have connectivity via the M.C. Road. And once the proposed highway to Thirunelveli via Ambasamudram is complete, it can also be accessed from the neighbouring districts of Tamilnadu in 2-3 hours.

The new International Airport ideally should be setup on at least 1500 acres of land so as to future proof it against further land acquisition. This should be sufficient to accomodate two runways and up to 3 million sq.ft. of terminal space, a full-fledged cargo terminal as well as extensive aircraft parking and refueling facilities. The Airport will also house an expanded MRO facility, shifted from the existing Airport. This new TIA will be able to handle the 10-15 million passengers who would pass through by 2020 or so, when the traffic will level off after the rapid expansion due to mega-projects like Technocity, Vizhinjam and the proposed Information Technology Investment Region (ITIR).

For one instant, we are left doubting where the money for all this will come from, after all we are not talking about a metro airport here. The answer is evident enough, from 600-odd acres of prime real estate - the site of the existing airport. Once the New Airport is commissioned, the existing one can be progressively shut down, demolished and handed over for redevelopment. The worst case is that some space will have to retained for military operations, even then there will be atleast 200-300 acres of land available to build offices, homes, malls and more. On a PPP basis, the revenue from the redevelopment of the land can be used to fund the New Airport's initial costs. Any developer will jump at the chance to develop land worth thousands of crores in exchange for paying a premium to AAI or the Govt.

Going a step further, the New Airport can be integrated with the ITIR to create an Aerotropolis (Read more about it here.). This is a city centred on a major airport, whose main businesses are related to aeronautical activities or directly dependent on them. With over 20 million sq.ft of IT space and aerospace industries like the new campus of Brahmos Aerospace and ISRO right next door, an aerotropolis is an excellent idea.

After the IT-led expansion which we are seeing now and which is likely to take us till about 2020, the next wave of expansion for Trivandrum in the North could be led by a new Airport. Let's look forward to a future where not even the sky can be a limit!


  1. nice one ajay..
    has the land acquisition started for the 100 acres?

  2. Fabulous ideas man!

    Even though a far-away rural airport would be inconvenient, I too think there will be a day when Trivandrum will have to think seriously about it.

    Tell me, isn't the Air Force looking forward to construct another airstrip in the district exclusively for them? They must think about it, something like they have in Yelehanka so that there will be a chance to extend the airforce's diagonal runway out into the sea..(isn't it possible?, the Japanese have built a full new airport in the sea!!!)

    Will read the post in detail again..I've some more to tell and ask about a few points in then post...

    See ye..:)

  3. Ajay, I appreciate your foresight. Wish any of the influential authorities read your blog :-)

  4. You do not have to publish this comment, but you are a dreamer. And you are dreaming up the impossible. In a city, where even potholes cant be covered up properly, you dream of aerotropolis. While I write this, Trivandrum still has the worst airport in Kerala. And a new terminal is not going to put to use all 5 aerobridges at a time :)
    After all, Trivandrum just has a small IT park with 1 major company's presence and with the current cost-cutting measures taken by IT cos all over India, you will see more people taking the train out of town! Lol, so why the need for a airport in Attingal? We are getting one somewhere in PTA district soon, aint we? After all, most of the passengers to the Gulf are from Central Travancore. Trivandrum minus Technopark is a big Zero. You know, I know it! There is no need to invest and it wont happen, trust me!
    Thanks to all the NON-Happenings in Trivandrum, she still remains largely a peaceful dull place and is good for the 35+ family man to retire in!

  5. Good information on TIA and future expectations for Trivandrum airport.

    On second runway at TIA, I have a question. Is it not possible to reclaim land from sea (as is going to be done for Vizhinjam port) and build the second runway over it?

    As for Airforce, I strongly feel they should move their base to outskirts of city and build there an airstrip exclusively for them. Any increase in airforce operations at TIA will affect civilian operations adversely.

    As for existing T-1 and T-2 terminals, they may be used for housing offices of AAI & airlines, utlities, cargo warehouses, refuel
    facilities, emergency facilities, hospitals/clinics and so forth.

  6. @ Nishanth - Thanks, buddy! The pre-acquisition work for the 100 acres is in process.

    @ Scorpio & Sajan - The IAF can look for another exclusive air base in the district but that will mean more land acquisition. Also, the IAF intends to develop Trivandrum as a Command & Control centre more than as a major fighter base. I sense the maritime patrol aircraft may the most important deployment here.

    Building a runway out to sea is not as fantastic as it sounds, as you know. Kansai and Hongkong have already done it. But protests from the fisherfolk and the astronomical costs may make it impossible here.


  7. @ Click - Lol, I was expecting something along this line. Trivandrum has always been beset with more detractors than blessed with well wishers.

    Firstly,thanks for calling me a dreamer, we need more of those, lol. We can find pot holes and pitfalls in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Delhi and even, you can believe it, in New York or Shanghai. I don't think that is a criterion for having a major airport. And one drive along the warrens in some of Kerala's other cities will tell you, through your spine, that Trivandrum's infra is miles ahead.

    Oh btw, that "small" IT park that you cared to mention in passing happens to be one of India's biggest and accounts for the small matter of "80%" of the IT/ITES business in Kerala. And unless you are smarter than the likes of NASSCOM, Mckinsey and ATK, the cost crunch is only going push companies to Tier II centres like Trivandrum. Being part of the infra industry, let me assure no one is taking the train out but there are lots of people catching the bus into Trivandrum which is why some of the world's leading developers are competing to develop the giant Technocity project.

    Hmmmm.....I thought the major share of Keralites in the Gulf were from N.Kerala which is one reason why flights started from Karipur are doing great at the cost of those in Cochin.

    Trivandrum - Technopark = Vizhinjam Deepsea Port, Brahmos Aerospace, VSSC, IISER, IIST, NIST, Film & Video Park, Kovalam, Poovar & countless other things. Does that add up?

    I hope some of your points have been answered, Click? Oh, they used to call Bangalore a "retirees haven" till the late 1990s, QED.


  8. Really informative blogs about our own tvm city. I appreciate the time and efforts you take to update the latest on that

  9. Ajay,

    thanks for that comment.

    Yep, i do follow your blog, and I understand the difference between the view points we have, as I am this guy who visits my home town once in 2 years, purely on vacation, I will always will it remain green, least polluted and unpredictable on bandhs and strikes.

    As you are based in TVM, you will always wish it gains even stronger footholding in trade and business, you will aspire for kerala economy becoming more and more non dependent on nri remittance, just the same way, I wish mumbai continues its dominance as a trade and financial capital,
    I totally agree with the need for development, but I somehow believe,that, if there is someplace on earth, that can actually have a sustainable economic development, then its Kerala.

    i wish, we look forward to the government and private sector working towards creating a knowledge led economy, the very foundation of such an economy is building good institutions, from schools to Universities.


  10. Thanks, Vishaka. Stay tuned!

    Aron - I agree totally with you buddy. What we need is sustainable development and Kerala, the most beautiful state in India, is where it needs to be practised the most.

    Most of my thought is in the same direction too, like saving Aakulam Lake while making it an investment and tourist destination at the same time.

    Overall, the planned development of Trivandrum will aid in sustainable development. Planning allows us to insert green spaces, utilities and much more in the right spots and to ensure that the available infrastructure is not stretched to breaking point.

    With our excellent talent pool, Kerala is best suited for a minimally polluting Knowledge Economy, as you said. Technopark has pointed us in the right direction and projects like Technocity will take us there.

    Looking forward to hearing more from you, Rawkie!


  11. ITzz a gud idea,but it needz huge capital & will be time consuming ...we have to think about restructuring the existing airport it self,as noting is impossible..........


Thanks for your comment, I will take a look at it and put it up at the earliest.