Himachal approaches GMR for new airport near Shimla

Shimla, July 19 (IANS) The Himachal government has approached the GMR group for setting up a world-class airport near capital Shimla to boost the state’s tourism industry, an official said Monday.

The GMR group has built the new Hyderabad and Delhi airports.

‘We have approached GMR to conduct techno-feasibility study for the airport somewhere near Shimla so that a world-class airport would be set up,’ Tourism Director Arun Sharma told IANS.

He said officials of his department will meet the GMR people in Delhi later this month.

‘We have been facing problems as the present airport (at Shimla) is not of international standard. Its runway has shrunk and can’t enable big aircraft to land. To attract more high-end tourists, setting up the big airport is the need of the hour,’ he added.

The new airport is likely to be set up somewhere along the Kalka-Shimla National Highway-22. ‘The site (for the airport) would be shortlisted by the construction company only after conducting a preliminary survey,’ Sharma added.

Officials said landing at Shimla airport, at an altitude of 2,196 metres above the sea level, is a challenge as it is one of the three table-top airports in the country.

It is called table-top because of the deep gorges surrounding the runway.

‘We have arrangements of fire-fighting at the strip level but the left bank of the airport is unconnected so far…though the night landing facility was commissioned in October last year but no night test flight has been operated so far,’ an official said.

Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, who also holds the tourism portfolio, informed the assembly in March this year that the runway of the Shimla airport has shrunk to 3,800 feet from 4,100 feet due to soil erosion.

Shimla airport is connected to Delhi by regular flights. Kingfisher is the only airline that operates smaller aircraft daily.

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