Government to spend $10 billion on airport infrastructure: Civil Aviation Secretary

 

VIJAYAWADA: A sum of $10 billion would be spent in next five years to develop airport infrastructure in India so that the country could become the world's third largest aviation market in seven years, Civil Aviation Secretary RN Choubey has said.

As many as 400 unused airstrips across the country that had become cattle grazing grounds, would be brought back to life, he said.

Addressing a day-long India Aviation Summit here today, Choubey said the Civil Aviation Ministry was determined to maintain the "historic" 23 per cent growth rate achieved in the aviation sector in the country.

"$10 billion would be spent in next five years to develop airport infrastructure. Our aim is to become the third largest aviation market in the next seven years. We are determined to stay ahead of the growth curve," he said.

India's nearest rival in terms of aviation growth was China with 14 per cent.

Progressive and proactive industry-friendly policies played a significant part in Indian aviation's growth story and not just the fall in fuel prices, Choubey remarked.

"Our ultimate objective is to take the flight to the masses and to this end we have come up with a progressive policy. We have also undertaken a very very bold experiment called Regional Air Connectivity Scheme at the national level," the bureaucrat said.

"For the first time, the civil aviation sector has achieved rail parity. While the railways turnover is Rs 1.6 lakh crore, civil aviation turnover touched Rs 1.4 lakh crore and the number of rail and air passengers has also become almost equal," Choubey pointed out.

"Civil aviation is now just as popular and just as necessary. Airfares are now comparable to air-conditioned train fares. No one could imagine subsidy for air travel but under the RAC Scheme, we have been extending 50-60 per cent viability gap funding," he said.

Stating that RAC Scheme created a lot of "excitement", the Civil Aviation Secretary said they received enquiries for as many as 800 routes.

Civil Aviation Minister P Ashok Gajapati Raju, Union Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu, and FICCI Chairman (Aviation) Pratyush Kumar were also present on the occasion.

The Civil Aviation Ministry organised the summit in collaboration with Andhra Pradesh Government and FICCI, for the first time in Vijayawada.