Monday, January 18, 2010

Metro says yes to IGI tunnel under runway

Delhi Metro chief E Sreedharan is learnt to have agreed to Airports Authority of India's (AAI) request for building the runway-tunnel link from Dwarka roundabout to a road leading to the upcoming terminal (T3). DMRC has sought an advance deposit of Rs 35 crore, roughly half of the total cost of the 1.5-km-long and six-lane link with a 343-metre tunnel that will pass under IGI's main runway. AAI, said sources, will ask the Delhi government to release this amount to them so that the work can begin at the earliest.

Sreedharan conveyed his consent last Friday. DMRC has sought Rs 35 crore immediately to begin preliminary investigation and preparatory work, said a relieved top AAI official. Metro had initially expressed reservation about taking up the project as its hands were full in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games. But given Metro's expertise in tunnelling work, the aviation ministry was very keen that it agrees. So AAI chairman V P Agrawal took up the issue with Sreedharan. Now DMRC will be building both high-speed rail and new road link to T3.

The aviation ministry is according top priority to this project as it has to be ready much before the Commonwealth Games in October. Last Friday, after getting Sreedharan's consent to take up the job, it sent the proposal to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for approval. The regulator is will examine the technical details as it passes under an operational runway. The tunnel will pass under the area that houses the approach lights of the main runway (28), next to the famous Jumbo Point.

IGI's runway tunnel will be the first hi-tech dream of AAI taking concrete shape. There are three other fancy plans for extending runways. In Kullu, it plans to extend the existing air strip by making a bridge over the river Beas that flows next to the airport. Similarly, there are plans to extend Lakshwadeep's runway by linking two islands through a sea link. And finally, to ease congestion at Mumbai's main airport, it wants to extend the runway at Juhu airport by covering the road ahead of the airstrip. Traffic is planned to be routed through an underground tunnel below the extended runway.

"All these plans are in different stages of conception. But Delhi is a flashpoint as T3 has to handle all international and domestic traffic in a few months. So, having just one approach road to the integrated terminal is a recipe for jams. We simply had to do something before Commonwealth Games and came upon this idea. In fact, this plan was the last to be conceived and will be the first to be implemented,'' said a senior AAI official.

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