Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) is the only large airport catering to the air travel demands of the National Capital Region (NCR) and the neighbouring areas, including parts of Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi lays the foundation stone for the Jewar International Airport near Greater Noida today (25 November), the region will move a step closer to getting its second airport.
Along with the IGIA, the new airport in Jewar will form a twin airport system for the NCR, like the ones which exist in Beijing, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Dubai, etc. With the compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of air traffic in double digits over the last decade, India will need twin and multi-airport systems in major cities in the next decade.
The rapid increase in the volume of air traffic originating in the areas that the IGIA serves in Delhi and the hinterland — parts of the neighbouring states that it serves — has necessitated the construction of a new airport in the NCR. The passenger traffic at IGIA has been growing at a higher rate than the national average. Over the last ten years, the passenger traffic at IGIA has increased at a compound annual growth rate of around 14 per cent, significantly higher than all India growth rate of 11.7 per cent.
The IGIA is expected to increase its design capacity from approximately 62 million to about 109 million over the next few years. However, the growth of domestic air travel demand from IGIA's hinterland alone may reach ~115 million by 2029-30. The growth of international air travel demand from the airport's hinterland may increase to ~31 million by 2029-30.
"Estimates reveal that the overall air travel from the hinterland is expected to double in the next 8 to 10 years. It is expected to rise from 63 million annual passenger handling in 2017-18 to ~130 million annual passenger handling in 2027-28. In subsequent decades...the overall air travel demand from the hinterland expected to reach to about 250 million annual passengers handled by 2049-50," the techno-economic feasibility report for the Jewar Airport, prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) for Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority, says.
Cargo traffic at the IGIA, too, has been growing rapidly over the last few years. In the five years between 2011-12 to 2016-17, cargo handling at the airport increased at a CAGR of ~ 8.6 per cent.
Considering the growing air traffic, IGIA's handling capacity is being increased to about 109 million passengers per annum and 2.2 million tons per annum of cargo by 2034. However, despite the capacity expansion, the facility will reach its peak capacity in the near future.
Potential Traffic at Jewar
Districts of Uttar Pradesh which are part of the IGIA's hinterland account for nearly 11-12 per cent of the total domestic passenger movement at the airport. The Gautam Buddh Nagar districts, where the new airport is coming up, alone accounts for over 5 per cent of the IGIA's total passenger movement, followed by Ghaziabad at 2 per cent, and Faizabad, Agra and Aligarh at 1 per cent. In the case of international passenger traffic, the share of districts from Uttar Pradesh is about 4 to 5 per cent.
For most hinterland districts of UP currently served by the IGIA, the travel time to and from the airport, which is one of the primary determinants for passenger's airport preference, will be lower in the case of Jewar. For example, it takes around 3.5 hours to reach the IGIA from Agra, but Jewar will only be around 2.5 hours away. The travel time from districts in western UP to Jewar will come down further with improvement in connectivity once the airport is operational.
Looking at the significant share of UP's western districts in the total passenger movement at the IGIA and Jewar's advantage over the IGIA in terms of time and distance, it may appear that the new airport will attract a large number of passengers. However, the diversion of traffic to Jewar will depend on services at the new airport.
For a significant shift to take place, carriers will seek minimum threshold traffic. In the absence of this minimum threshold traffic, many routes may remain unserviceable. Instead of these factors, it will be the capacity constraint at IGIA that will push traffic to Jewar, at least in the beginning.
The current pattern of aircraft movement at IGIA shows that the airport has two peaks in a day — first at around 10am and second at around 6pm. Given that the traffic at the IGIA will only increase, some part of the passenger traffic at these peak hours could shift to Jewar.
"With time, IGIA will be able to serve a smaller percentage on annual incremental demand increase, with a greater percentage of demand being susceptible for spill to Jewar Airport," the PwC report says.
In the initial years, some part of the peak hour traffic at the IGIA will shift to Jewar, although some airlines may opt for wide-body aircraft to circumvent the runway constraints. Over the next few years, as more hours reach peak capacity, more traffic originating in the national capital and the hinterland districts around it will shift to the new airport at Jewar.
"The potential spillover from IGIA may start picking significant pace by 2029-30 as IGIA reaches its capacity," PwC report adds.
Given that the 40 per cent of the domestic demand originating in the hinterland districts of Uttar Pradesh served by IGIA is for metropolitan regions of Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Chennai, these could be the first destinations to get scheduled flights from Jewar. By 2020-23, the Jewar Airport may get flights to eight domestic destinations.
Jewar Airport may also get an international service to Dubai in the initial years, given the demand from areas like Aligarh, Agra and Ghaziabad.
"With increasing congestion at IGIA, international traffic may also start diverting towards the new airport. By 2050, Jewar Airport may look towards serving 27 international and 27 domestic destinations," the report says.
PwC's report says the Jewar Airport may serve a total annual passenger demand of around 5 million in the initial years of its operations and nearly 16 million by 2030, growing at about 19 per cent.
"The growth would be observed both in domestic and international passenger at around 18 percent and 33 respectively. By 2050, the airport traffic demand at the airport may reach to about 98 million passengers annually. However, given the current master plan, airport may cater to about 70-77 million passengers annually," the report adds.
The cargo potential of the Jewar Airport will depend on the airport's proximity to the cargo generating centre and the air connectivity that the airport can provide. The belly cargo, carried on passenger flights, will depend on passenger demand in the region as flights will be started by various carriers depending on passenger traffic. Dedicated freighters may be deployed at the Jewar airport as it is close to manufacturing hubs of western UP, including Aligarh, Agra, Ghaziabad and Gautam Buddh Nagar districts.
Gautam Buddh Nagar and Ghaziabad, the two major cargo centres in the region, generate around 50 per cent of the international cargo in the NCR.
"The investment in the Jewar hinterland is expected to drive up the cargo for Jewar. Based on existing investment and future investments, the share of cargo for each district is highlighted in the figure below. It shows that out of the total cargo traffic in the hinterland, Gautam Budh Nagar may account for 40 per cent of the traffic in future, up from 35 per cent currently. Overall, proposed airport at Jewar may be in a position to cater to nearly 55 per cent of the total cargo," the PwC report says.
The domestic cargo potential of the Jewar airport will depend on the passenger traffic that the new airport receives as around 80 per cent of India's domestic cargo is carried in the belly of aircraft.
"In the initial years, Jewar may cater to ~6 per cent of the domestic ATM [Air Traffic Movement] traffic, which will go up to 7 per cent in 2024-25 and 38 per cent by 2049-50. This ATM traffic split is expected to drive the domestic cargo split between IGIA and Jewar airport," the report adds.
Conceptualised with an integrated multi modal cargo hub, the airport is being built to serve as a logistics gateway for the region. The dedicated cargo terminal at Jewar will have a 20 lakh metric tonne capacity in the first few years, which will be expanded to 80 lakh metric tonne.
The site of the Jewar airport is being linked to Delhi-NCR with multiple connectivity projects. As IGIA reaches peak capacity, this infrastructure will facilitate the shift of traffic to Jewar.
"In the initial years, before IGIA reaches its saturation, improved connectivity of the proposed airport to its immediate hinterland would play a critical role in attracting traffic. As IGIA reaches its stated capacity, it will be important to enhance Jewar's connectivity to NCT of Delhi to ensure movement of traffic from Delhi to Jewar," the PwC report says.
The extension of metro in Noida will ease movement to the new airport from different parts of the city and reduce traffic congestion. A new metro line that will link Greater Noida to the Jewar Airport is being planned. A metro corridor to provide direct connectivity between Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport and the Jewar Airport is also being planed.
The connectivity to parts of UP, including the state's western districts, has been significantly upgraded with the construction of the Yamuna Expressway between Noida and Agra and the Agra-Lucknow Expressway. The airport is coming up less than a kilometre away from the Yamuna Expressway, making it attractive for tourists interested in the golden triangle tourist triangle between Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. The distance between Agra and the Jewar Airport can be covered in less than three hours on the Yamuna Expressway.
Construction of the Eastern Peripheral Expressway, opened in 2018, has cut down the travel time between districts like Meerut and Ghaziabad and the site of the new airport. Travelling to the site of the Jewar airport from Ghaziabad takes around 45 minutes now. Meerut is linked to the site of the airport via the Delhi-Meerut Expressway, which has been linked to the Eastern Peripheral Expressway through an interchange.
"Site is about 30 km from State Highway SH-22A i.e. the highway that connects Palwal and Aligarh. There is 100 meter wide Eastern Peripheral Expressway, passing through Yamuna Expressway at Formula One Track, which connects the site to Palwal, Manesar, Ghazaibad, Bhagpat and Meerut. On the southern side, the airport is planned to be connected to the proposed Palwal Khurja expressway. Site is connected to Noida via Greater Noida by a 130 meter wide road," the PwC report adds.
In the future, the Jewar airport will also be linked to the Delhi-Varanasi High Speed Rail, which will cut down the travel time between the national capital and the new airport to only 21 minutes.
Apart from this, a Ground Transportation Centre with multimodal transit hub featuring metro and high-speed rail stations, taxi, bus services and private parking will also be built at the airport. This will enable seamless connectivity of the airport with road, rail, and metro infrastructure.
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