Routes cancelled even after successful bidding
JAMMU, Dec 5: Vast population in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and Union Territory of Ladakh has remained deprived of the benefit of air connectivity scheme of the Union Government as several routes were cancelled even after identification and successful bidding process.
On October 21, 2016, the Ministry of Civil Aviation launched Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS)-UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik) to stipulate regional air connectivity and making air travel affordable to the masses.
RCS-UDAN is a market driven mechanism and the interested airlines based on their assessment of demand on particular routes submit their proposals at the time of bidding for air operations on un-served routes.
Financial incentives in terms of concessions from Central, State Governments and airport operators are extended to selected airline operations to encourage operations from un-served/under-served airports and to keep the air fare affordable. Even support to the selected airline operators in the form of Viability Gap Funding is provided by the Governments of States and Union Territories.
The Government of erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir had signed tripartite agreement for implementation of RCS-UDAN soon after the launch of the Scheme by the Civil Aviation Ministry. There are 13 un-served airports and one under-served airport in the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh available in the tentative list of under-served/un-served airports of RCS-UDAN Scheme document for bidding by the interested airlines.
During the 2nd and 3rd round of bidding under RCA-UDAN, several routes in the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh were taken up and allotted to the successful airlines for commencement of operations within six months of signing of the agreement or within 60 days of readiness of airports, whichever is later, official sources told EXCELSIOR.
However, despite this vast population has remained deprived of the benefit of the scheme as the routes had to be cancelled at the later stage due to non-compliance of Selected Airline Operator (SAO) agreement, they said.
Sources disclosed that MEHAIR Airline was allotted Kargil-Srinagar and Srinagar-Kargil routes in the second round of bidding keeping in view the pressing demand of the inhabitants of Kargil district, which remains cut off from rest of the country for several months every year due to massive snowfall at Zojila Pass. However, the routes had to be cancelled due to non-compliance of SAO agreement by MEHAIR Airline.
Similarly, Jammu-Kargil, Kargil-Jammu, Srinagar-Thoise, Thoise-Chandigarh and Thoise-Srinagar routes were allotted to Heritage Airline under third round of bidding but these routes had to be cancelled by the Ministry of Civil Aviation as the selected airline failed to ensure compliance to the agreement.
“Now, these routes will be taken up in the future round of bidding that too if any valid bid is received from the airlines under RCS-UDAN”, sources said, adding “due to this vast population will remain deprived of the benefit of the scheme for unspecified period”.
It is pertinent to mention here that air services on Jammu-Bhatinda and Jammu-Gwalior routes, which were taken up in 2nd and 3rd rounds of bidding, commenced on February 27, 2018 and May 1, 2019 respectively.
Meanwhile, efforts are being made to strengthen airports’ infrastructure in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and Union Territory of Ladakh.
These steps include extension of the runway of Jammu Airport by Airports Authority of India (AAI), appointment of management consultant for preparation of detailed plan by AAI for expansion of existing terminal building at Srinagar Airport and setting into motion exercise for construction of new terminal building at Leh airport with the cost of Rs 480 crore.
“Moreover, a pre-feasibility study has been carried out by multi-disciplinary team of AAI for the development of Kargil airport for civil operations suitable to operate Airbus 320 type of aircraft”, sources said, adding “AAI has also taken up the matter with the International Civil Aviation Organization to further explore the feasibility of aircraft such as B-737 operations to Kargil airport”.
Even a pre-feasibility study has been carried out by AAI for the development of Thoise Airport under RCS operations.