Operations commence for new airport in Shirdi

Visitors relieved but locals continue to seek basic transport


News - AIBM

October 3, 2017

/ By / New Delhi

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The Indian President recently inaugurated the first airport in Shirdi, a town where basic transport facilities like bus services are still missing.

Built at a cost of INR 3.5 billion, the temple town of Shirdi now has its own airport. Inaugurated on October 1, by the Indian President Ram Nath Kovind, the international facility in the western Indian state of Maharashtra witnessed its first commercial flight flagged off to Mumbai, the state’s major economic city.

The airport aims to cater to the huge number of visitors travelling to the temple town every year. Shirdi sees more than 30,000 pilgrims every day, of which the airport authorities plan to tap at least 10-12 pc.

With its 2,750 square metre terminal building, the airport can accommodate nearly 300 passengers daily.

President Kovind said, besides catering to the pilgrims and visitors, the airport will trigger economic activities and will also create jobs in the region.

The first airline to take off from the new facility was an Alliance Air ATR-72 aircraft, owned by the regional arm of the state-run carrier Air India. There will daily flights connecting Shirdi to Mumbai (40 minutes) and Hyderabad (110 minutes), the South Indian city operated by Alliance Air.

Flight time from Mumbai to Shirdi is 40 minutes reducing the travelling time by one-sixth by road (a five-hour drive).

The inauguration coincided with the year-long observation of the death centenary of Saint Sai Baba, the shrine of whom draws most visitors to the town. In fact,  the Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust funded INR 500 million for the facility, according to the reports of a leading Indian daily.

Currently, with its 2,500-metre long runway, the airport can accommodate single, narrow body aircraft like Airbus A320 and Boeing 737. A plan of expanding the runway to 3,200 metre is in place.

The airport is the first in India to be developed by a state government, which seems to have missed the fact that its people do not even have a decent bus service to commute locally.

Privileged pilgrims

In Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district, where the facility has been developed in the Kakadi village, locales are demanding basic amenities against the huge chunk of land used for the airport.

A village with a population of 4,500, it doesn’t seem to be benefiting from the new mode of transport in town.

The Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) has started air-conditioned buses between Kakdi and Shirdi, which will further smooth the visitors’ journey but are of no use to the locales because of the high fairs. Students who have to commute outside the village cannot afford the service as well. Moreover, the schedule of these buses has been decided in sync with the flights arriving at the Shirdi airport.  The village is at distance of 15 kilometres from Shirdi, and students go even further to attend school.

An Indian daily reported the MSRTC beginning to work on a local bus service soon, but nothing has been confirmed.

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