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GOA

SUNDAY, march 10, 2013

Integrating Mopa airport into the local


transport network will go a long way in making
the airport passenger friendly

Dabolim, can never aspire to be a real


international airport. A naval airport is
basically a defence establishment

OPEN SPACE

Mopa versus Dabolim: A rejoinder


The debate over whether Goa should have a single new greenfield airport at Mopa, or two airports, retaining the current one in Dabolim as well, has been tossed around for years. After a consultant argued
cogently that Goa could well managequite efficientlywith Dabolim alone, another contributor takes a counter view in the ongoing debate
TENSING RODRIGUES

t the end of the article Mopa


v/s Dabolim by Rahul Basu
that appeared in the Herald
Review ( February 10) the
author concluded that the
idea of an airport at Mopa is stupid.
He wrote: Our politicians are not
stupid, why are they still pushing for
Mopa? Basus study elevates the debate on Mopa above the political tugof-war that it has been up to now. But
his conclusion is based on some highly
restrictive premises. We need to understand that the Mopa v/s Dabolim
debate originated in the vested interests of hoteliers located in the North
and South of Goa; and it has been fuelled by these lobbies all along.
First, let me accept that Mopa is not
perhaps the best location for a new
airport. But I suppose now we are
beyond the stage of looking out for
an optimum location for it; so accepting it as a fait accompli, I am restricting myself to just Mopa and Dabolim.
Further, I fully agree with Basu that
two airports in such close vicinity is a

stupid idea. Now let me come to the


two restrictive premises that make
an airport at Mopa look stupid: one that the international airport in Goa is
for Goa alone; two - that an airport is
merely a place where planes land.
An international airport in Goa
cannot be for Goa alone; it cannot be
sustained by the traffic generated by
a small place like Goa. Goa may be a
State, but it is smaller in area and population than many districts in India.
We may be under an illusion that Goas
tourist traffic will sustain an international airport. We need to rethink that
assumption.
Therefore we have to necessarily
look at a larger catchment area. Goas
geographical positioning, I feel, restricts the catchment area of the airport to the coastal belt - south of the
hinterland of Mumbai and north of
the hinterland of Mangalore. We may
have to replace the existing Mumbai
airport in the north by the airport in
or around Navi Mumbai, while doing
this calculation. That gives us about
250 km to the north and 200 km to
the south, which encompasses the districts of Ratnagiri (South) and Sind-

hudurga in Maharashtra and Uttar


Kanara in Karnataka.
Why not the area beyond the Ghats,
like the districts of Kolhapur and
Sangli in Maharashtra and Belgaum,
Dharwad and Haveri in Karnataka?
Passengers or freight from beyond
Ghats cannot be easily captured by
an airport in Goa because of tenuous
links across the Ghats. The only robust road link between the coast and

the up-Ghat region along the entire


stretch between Mumbai and Ernakulam is NH 48 (old NH 4) connecting Mumbai to Pune; nowhere below
that there exists such a link. There are
numerous roads crossing the Ghats to
the south of Mumbai: Ratnagiri-Kolhapur, Panaji-Belgaum, Kumta- Sirsi,
Honnavar--Shimoga,
ManagaloreMadikeri, etc.; but none of these are
capable of providing robust and rapid
links. As for the rail links, MadgaonLonda is the only broad gauge line
crossing the Ghats between Mumbai
and Mangalore; seven trains run on
the route of which only two are daily.
The broad gauge line connecting Mangalore to Hassan is an even weaker
link, with only two daily trains running on it. Both these are single lines
and not electrified; the Railway Vision
2020 document too does not propose
any improvement in the situation. The
next link below that - the ShorannurErode line - is however a robust link.
The Ghats, therefore, have remained
insurmountable at least as far as the
hinterland of Goa is concerned. Thus,
it makes sense to restrict the catch-

AN INTEGRATED MULTIMODAL
TRANSPORT HUB COULD BE
DEVELOPED AT THE PERNEM
RAILWAY STATION WHERE
PASSENGERS CAN SWITCH
FROM PLANE TO TRAIN OR BUS
AND VICE VERSA, FROM TRAIN
TO BUS AND VICE VERSA, ALL
UNDER ONE ROOF IN ABSOLUTE
COMFORT. THE COMPLEX WOULD
ALSO PROVIDE FOR BOOKING OF
TICKETS, SANITARY UTILITIES,
RELAXATION WHILE WAITING,
FOOD AND REFRESHMENTS,
BOOKING OF HOTELS AND
SHOPPING.

AN AIRPORT NEED NOT BE


MERELY A PLACE WHERE PLANES
LAND. ALL INTERNATIONAL
AIRPORTS THAT HAVE MADE
BIG TODAY ARE MORE THAN
MERE AIRPORTS - THEY ARE
INTEGRATED TRANSPORT HUBS
WHICH PEOPLE PREFER TO USE.
THAT REQUIRES OUT OF THE BOX
THINKING. I AM BASING MY
SUGGESTIONS PARTICULARLY ON
MY EXPERIENCE OF THE NEW
KUALA LUMPUR AIRPORT.
ment area of an airport in Goa to the
coastal belt - south of the hinterland
of Mumbai and north of the hinterland
of Mangalore. The Belgaum and Hubli
airports, therefore, move out of reckoning; they cannot be competitors to
an airport in Goa. That leaves us with
two contenders - Sindhudurga and
Karwar. Of these Karwar should be
dropped out. It is going to be a Naval
Airport, just like Dabolim;
and, therefore, like Dabolim, can never aspire to
be a real international
airport. A naval airport
is basically a defence establishment, with all its
necessary constraints. A
civilian airport needs to
be free of all constraints,
save those related to environment; only then can
it aspire to attain global
standards. Sindhudurga
airport is the only other
real contender; and I have
no argument to wish it
away; at least at this point.
Let me now turn to the
demolition of the second
restrictive premise: that
an airport is merely a
place where planes land.
An airport need not be
merely a place where
planes land. All international airports that have
made big today are more than mere
airports - they are integrated transport hubs which people prefer to use.
That requires out of the box thinking; and that is what I want to show
is necessary in Goas case. I am basing
my suggestions particularly on my
experience of the new Kuala Lumpur
Airport.
The idea of an integrated transport
hub suggests itself once we look at

the map of the area around Mopa. NH


66 (old NH 17) runs at 1.66 km from
the airport location; and the Konkan
Railway line runs at 3.06 km. When
the airport comes up it is likely to be
skirted by the NH (though at different
elevations) and will have the KR line
within less than 2km from its periphery. Does that suggest to you a multimodal transport hub? I know there
are some ground level difficulties
there; mainly because of the topography and the distance (about 2 km)
between the KR line and the NH. Move
your sight a little lower on the map
and you have the two lines - the NH
and the KR - converging at the Pernem
Railway Station - just about 6 km from
the airport; considering the spread of
the airport, the distance may be actually about 4 km. Here is where the
out of the box thinking comes in. And
this is what the new KL International
Airport (KLIA) has demonstrated:
the airport where the planes land and
take off can be far from the Passenger
Terminal. At KLIA, which is 60 km
away from KL city, the major flights
land and take off from what is known

as the Satellite Terminal A, while the


passengers check in and check out at
Main Terminal or Terminal 1. It is here
that the passengers complete their
immigration and other tasks like buying local currency or SIM card or dutyfree shopping. A dedicated passenger
train called the Aerotrain takes the
passengers from the Satellite Terminal to the Main Terminal. The 3-car
250-person capacity driverless trains
complete the 2 km journey in less
than two minutes. If the Mopa Airport is so designed that the Satellite
Terminal is located at Mopa plateau
and the Main Terminal is located on
the plain at the convergence of NH and
the KR lines, a similar train should
be able to cover the 4 km distance in
less than 5 minutes. A smaller capacity train with a lower frequency may
be what we will need to start with.
An integrated multimodal transport
hub could be developed at the Pernem
Railway Station where passengers
can switch from plane to train or bus
and vice versa, from train to bus and
vice versa, all under one roof in absolute comfort. The complex would also

provide for booking of tickets, sanitary utilities, relaxation while waiting, food and refreshments, booking
of hotels and shopping. It is needless
to say that the hub is not just a utility;
it is a business proposition that will
provide employment and income to
locals and revenue to the Goa government. That is what it has to be eventually: a hub for growth of the entire
region. Integrated hubs like this can
provide tremendous boost to local
produce as they attract large congregations of customers; it becomes
a virtuous cycle: activity attracts
crowds, and crowds attract activity,
and the growth effect trickles down
over a wide region. And the right type
of growth: growth without the ill effects of crass urbanisation, rapacious
industrialisation and unjust concentration of wealth.
Even looking from the narrow point
of view of the viability of the airport,
no major airport can be viable if it cannot derive more than half of its income
from non-aeronautical activities; I
suppose the ratio for a viable business
model is something like 20:80 between aeronautical and non-aeronautical activities. Or else the non-travelling public has to bear the tax burden;
or the airport has to simply price itself
out of the competition. Crucial to the
viability of the integrated transport
hub is the connectivity. And that is
the location advantage of Mopa: the
KR Station, the NH 66 and the airport
will be in close proximity, providing
connectivity within the region as well
as with the rest of the world. But this
advantage will work for the viability
of the hub and the airport if and only
if the KR line and the NH are used optimally. Passengers landing at Mopa
need to be shuttled to their destinations in comfort and in the shortest
possible time. One excellent option
is to use the major KR stations as the
hubs for disembarkation of air travellers and run fast trains connecting
these stations. This is again a superb
idea that has been tried out by KLIA.
A high speed non-stop train KLIA Express connects the airport to another
marvelous transport hub KL Sentral
in the heart of Kuala Lumpur - in just
28 minutes; another train KLIA Transit makes two stops in between; what
is the most important, the trains start
from within the Main Terminal of the
airport. Other railway lines - metro,
suburban, intercity and transnational
(going to Bangkok and Singapore) - either originate at or pass through KL
Sentral; as a result the air passengers
have unsurpassed connectivity with
comfort, speed and economy.
Similar trains could start from the
Pernem Integrated Transport Hub or
the trains passing through Pernem
KR Station could be utilised for this
purpose, depending on the traffic
volumes and track availability. They
would have to then connect to the

major stations on the KR route between Ratnagiri and Bhatkal; some


trains could connect to only few stations, others could connect to more.
If we are to get back to the narrow
context of tourist flow to Goa, as an
illustration, Thivim would cater to
the Calangute-Baga belt, Madgaon
would cater to the Mobor-Bogmalo
belt, and so on. This would also provide impetus to the up gradation of
KR infrastructure, and make KR the
dream lifeline of Konkan, that it was
supposed to be.
Integration is very critical for the
success of this model. Or else, we will
have a situation similar to that in
Chennai. Chennai International Airport (CIA) is one of the few in India
probably which can be accessed by
a train. The other one is Delhi Indira
Gandhi International Airport (IGI);
I am told the Metro connection from
New Delhi to IGI is of global standards. CIA has the rail connectivity,
but the switch is not at all smooth.
Chennai city is served by the Metro;
the metropolitan area is served by local trains. So if you are somewhere in
the city - say Triplicane, Royapettah
or Mylapore - and you have to fly, you
need to take a Metro train to Chennai
Fort and then catch a local train back
to Tirusulam - the station close to the
airport. The subway at Tirusulam station opens out into the airport area;
but the subway stinks and is usually
inundated; and after that you need to
walk about 400 metres through dusty
rubble to enter the Terminal.
Hopefully, once the Metro line gets
extended to the airport, the switch
should be smoother. Integrating the
airport into the local transport network goes a long way in making an
airport passenger friendly.
The beauty of Pernem Integrated
Transport Hub is that it offers a parallel mode for dispersion: the NH 66.
Fast and comfortable coaches could
carry the air passengers to their destinations in the hinterland. The two
modes, therefore, would complement
each other, offering flexibility and
wider reach; NH 66 would provide access to those areas lying away from
the KR line.
The question is, why not follow the
same model at Dabolim? Dabolim has
the added advantage of access to the
South Western (SW) rail line. Yes,
Dabolim has access to SW line; but,
as said before, it is a weak link. Well
that could be strengthened. So I will
not discard that point altogether. But
Dabolim is too far from the KR line,
which is more vital to service the hinterland of the airport. (Actually that is
not really true: the KR line passes very
close to the airport, but some half a
kilometer below!) Dabolim is also far
from the NH 66; that however is not a
big problem, as NH 66A (the so called
Four Lane Highway), which passes by
the airport, can be a strong link to NH
66. But most important handicap is
the unavailability of space to develop
an Integrated Multimodal Transport
Hub in the neighbourhood of Dabolim. Some 25 years back it would have
been possible; that is before Verna
was developed as an industrial hub.
Verna Plateau would have been an
excellent site for an Integrated Multimodal Transport Hub.
To conclude, the choice today is not
between Mopa and Dabolim. The only
real challenge that I perceive for Mopa
is Sindhudurga. Because, all that I
have proposed for Mopa will also
work for Sindhudurga. If Sindhudurga
materialises in a big way, Mopa will
have to bow out; and even Dabolim.
If we do not want that to happen, we
will have to act fast and act decisively
on a massive scale to emerge the winner between the two.