New Delhi, Aug 24 (IANS) The government on Thursday launched the second round of bidding under its air regional connectivity scheme Udan, with select changes to bolster connectivity in hilly and difficult terrain.
“The second round has started… It is expected to fructify by November,” said Union Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju.
“Some key changes have been made like allowing helicopter and small aircraft’s operations in priority areas, removal of minimum distance limit and some flexibility in exclusivity clause.”
Raju spoke here at Rajiv Gandhi Bhawan where he was giving a brief on the second round of bidding under RCS-Udan.
He asserted that the thrust in the second round will be on improving connectivity to priority areas like the North East, Jammu & Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Lakshdweep by introducing more operational flexibility.
“Our focus has not changed. We still want the regional connectivity to happen. The first round is in the final stages of implementation barring a few airports in difficult terrain,” the minister said.
The first round of RCS-Udan scheme connected eight unserved, under-served airports, while 21 destinations are expected to be connected soon.
However, the remaining 14 airports out of the 43 unserved, under-served airports that were to be connected under the first round, are currently under the process of being upgraded and will be connected once they are made air-worthy.
“This time we have had extensive consultations with the state governments before the bidding round. We have also organised interactions between state governments and airlines. The outcome has been encouraging,” Raju said.
The airline operations under the RCS-Udan scheme are intended to provide air connectivity to un-served and remote routes with airfare being capped at Rs 2,500 for an hour’s journey.
Among important changes that have been effected, the minister said routes with stage length of less than 150 km will now be permitted for operations as RCS routes through fixed-wing aircraft.
Chopper operations under the scheme have been limited to priority areas. Even the VGF (Viability Gap Funding) cap for helicopter operations has been increased and 10 per cent of the estimated annual inflows in the RCF (regional connectivity fund) will be earmarked for helicopter operations.
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