Although the fate of the proposed Versova-Bandra Sea Link (VBSL) and that of the extension of the Juhu airfield runway are both unclear, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) has drafted a new blueprint to ensure that the sea link, if ever built, does not come in the way of the runway extension.
A proposal had been made earlier to extend the runway of the Juhu airfield by 1,000 metres towards the Arabian sea.
The new blueprint, drafted in consultation with the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), the 10-km-long sea link should be around 1,300 metres away from the coast. Accordingly, the extension of the runway would be curtailed till about 750-800m. “If the blueprint is implemented, then both projects could come up without hindering each other,” an AAI official said.
However, the new plan has come as a surprise to many as the government had earlier said that it wanted to operate small planes, including ATRS, on the extended runway. This would require flying at an angle different from what the helicopters currently operate at from Juhu.
Experts from AAI’s Air Traffic Control Division said it would require a runway at least 1,700m long to operate ATRs, and curtailing the length of the runway to 750-800m would be useless. “The plan is absurd and impractical,” a source with direct knowledge about the development of the case said.
The government has been planning to develop the Juhu airport to ease the air traffic congestion at the Mumbai airport by shifting the operation of smaller aircraft. Moreover, development of the VBSL would help speed up vehicular traffic in the region, which presently moves at a snail’s pace due to the narrow and clogged roads.
The runway extension will cost at least Rs2,000 crore, while the VBSL is pegged to cost about Rs3,045 crore.