New Delhi – As India joins the ranks of modern, industrial nations of the world, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Saturday inaugurated a swanky new terminal at the New Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport, built at a cost of nearly USD $3 billion in a record time of 37 months, which showcases its economic surge and also its cultural and heritage aspects.
The actual operations though will start July 14 for international services while that for the domestic sector begins on July 30.the developers of what is called Terminal 3 said.
The Delhi-Dubai flight will be the first to take-off from the new terminal while the first one to arrive will be Air-India passengers from New Delhi.
The new terminal can handle 34 million passengers per annum in the first phase of development, against less than 10 million passengers at present at the international terminal.
The terminal, billed as T3, is said to the sixth largest in the world — after those at Dubai, Beijing, Singapore, Bangkok and Mexico City.
Spread over 5.5 million square feet, the glass and steel terminal can handle 34 million passengers a year as against less than 10 million at present at the international terminal.
It has 92 moving walkways and 78 aerobridges connecting the boarding area directly to the aircraft. The new world-class hub is designed to support the Airbus A380, a super-jumbo jet.
Among those at the inaugural event were National Advisory Council chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel, Delhi Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit and chairman of GMR Group, G.M. Rao, which led the consortium that built the terminal.
A beaming prime minister in his inaugural address said “today is a very special occasion for our country .. (for) this airport terminal establishes new global bench marks… and it also exemplifies our country's resolve to bridge and bridge fast the infrastructure deficit in our country.”
Stating that the airports often were the first introduction to a country, he said “A good airport would signal the arrival of new India, committed to join the ranks of modern, industrialized nations of the world. We should have airports that are receptive to the comfort of passengers even as they meet the highest standards of efficiency and safety. They should employ the most modern of technologies but also exude cultural warmth.”
Although less than one percent of India's 1.2 billion people travel by air currently, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh maintained that India's domestic traffic could reach 160-180 million and international traffic in excess of 50 million by the year 2020.
India now has become the 9th largest aviation market in the world with ten scheduled airlines operating compared to two in 1990. In the same period, the scheduled aircraft deployed by the Indian carriers has gone up four times, from 100 to about 400.
The Indian leader said that India's aviation sector has the potential to absorb up to USD $120 billion of investment by the year 2020. This country also occupies an important geographical place in the air route structure of the world. Many key international air traffic services cross the air space in which India is responsible for providing air traffic services.
The T3 will be India's first terminal to have enclosed boarding gates for non-stop US-bound flights with facility to screen both passengers and their cabin baggage just before they enter the aerobridge to board the aircraft.
Only London's Heathrow and Frankfurt have such special arrangements to accommodate US concerns, reports said Saturday.
The new terminal is part of a churn that India' is giving to its major infrastructure projects across New Delhi and various other major cities.
New airports have come up in India's IT hubs at Hyderabad and Bangalore. India's financial and entertainment capital, Mumbai, is due to open its new terminal in 2012.
New Delhi is now under a frenzy of construction of over-bridges and flyovers while the major shopping areas have been given a much needed make over, all to be in time for the Commonwealth Games sporting spectacle that begins on October 3.
Games organizers have been quoted as saying that the Delhi games, which will attract athletes from 71 former British colonies, will be best ever held.