UDAN 4.0: Focus on remote area link-up with smaller aircraft in NE | India News

GUWAHATI: After the UDAN scheme of the ministry of civil aviation failed to take off thrice in the past in the northeast, the Union government is eyeing another attempt with airlines going for smaller aircraft like Dornier, which have smaller seating capacities of 19 to 42 passengers.
Sources in the ministry said since the passenger load would be less, it could be economically more viable this time. Officials at the Airports Authority of India said connecting the remote and distant locations of NE with metros would come under focus when the auction of airline routes under UDAN 4.0 commences.
But professionals associated with the aviation sector have doubts about the success of short routes that can easily be covered through roadways at much cheaper rates. “Smaller flights would be the future of northeast. In the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) under UDAN Phase-I, II and III, routes were awarded to airlines but somehow they didn’t succeed and the connection was suspended in most of the routes,” said the regional executive director (officiating) of AAI, JT Radhakrishna, on Thursday.
Earlier, ATR-72 or Bombardier Q-400 were preferred in the RCS routes by the airlines as they were smaller in size compared to A-320 or B-737 aircraft and had 72 to 80 passenger capacity. Even then, airlines had to suspend their services, mainly due to passenger payload and poor response.
Radhakrishna said under UDAN 4.0 the northeast is under focus as of the 70 routes finalized by the government, 40 have been given to the region. This, he said, will help in developing intra-regional connectivity. Half of the seats in the aircraft will be sold as per the subsidized rates fixed by the government on a particular route under the scheme.
“Connectivity from remote locations to main cities is the goal of RCS flights, as there are numerous underserved, unserved air strips and airports in the country which can be developed through this scheme. Some heliports are also to be developed and connected in this scheme, funds for which will be reimbursed by the ministry,” he added.
The vital routes that were operationalized in the northeast under UDAN were Jorhat-Kolkata by Indigo and Lilabari-Kolkata by Spicejet in phase –II, and Guwahati-Dimapur-Imphal by Alliance Air and Shillong-Kolkata by Indigo in phase- III. But due to the Covid-19 pandemic, services have been suspended except for the Jorhat-Kolkata route.
“Rupsi in Assam and Passighat in Arunachal will be coming up in FY 2020-21. Shillong will be connected to almost all northeast airports. Connectivity to Tezu, Geleki will be restored. Arunachal will have two connections through Tezu and Passighat,” he added.
Completely new routes in this phase include Imphal-Tezu, Rupsi-Kolkata, Aizawl-Tezpur, Agartala-Dibrugarh, Shillong-Passighat, Guwahati-Misa, Misa-Geleki, Geleki-Jorhat, Guwahati-Shillong and Shillong-Dibrugarh.
Bikrom Singha Lahkar, founder and principal of the College of Aeronautical Engineering, Guwahati, is not enthused by the UDAAN 4.0 project as he feels an expert team is necessary to analyse the plan first before the launch. He added that the DONER ministry of civil aviation has not taken any initiative to form the team. This resulted in the failure of the scheme earlier in the northeast.
“It is sad that the region does not have any maintenance base for heavy fixed wing aircraft. The northeast council had taken an initiative to establish the maintenance base at Guwahati followed by constructing three hangers at the Guwahati airport, but they are still lying unused. After flying across the northeast the aircraft needs to go to Kolkata or Delhi for maintenance. The people behind the project must understand this basic reality and ensure proper implementation of the project,” he added.
“From tourism or business point of view, certain areas have to be identified like Cherrapunji, Kaziranga, Manas, Majuli, Tawang and Haflong. A water port at Majuli or heliport at Cherrapunji is absent in the UDAN 4.0 scheme. Guwahati to Majuli is about 135 nautical miles, Guwahati to Cherrapunji is only about 50 nautical mile, Haflong is about 90 nautical mile and Manas National Park is about 40 nautical mile. Tourists are visiting these places by road, which are in pathetic conditions. If the UDAN scheme covers these air routes then it would attract many more passengers,” he said.



[Source :Times of India]

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here