Page last updated at 15:05 GMT, Friday, 16 May 2008 16:05 UK

Battle over new Bangalore airport

By Karishma Vaswani
Business Correspondent, BBC News, Mumbai

A cleaner prepares the new Bangalore airport
The opening of the airport has already been delayed from March

A row is breaking out over Bangalore's new international airport, as it gets ready to open its doors to the public on 23 May, almost two months late.

A group of concerned citizens and businesses say there is not good enough infrastructure for the new airport to be able to deal with its passengers.

They insist the old airport, in the centre of the city, should remain open.

The operators of the new airport say they are already losing money and the old airport must close.

Joint venture

The new airport is run by a private firm called Bengaluru International Airport (BIAL).

It's a venture between Siemens Project Ventures, Larsen and Toubro, Unique Zurich Airport, the Karnataka State Government and the Airports Authority of India.

Siemens owns the biggest share in the venture with 40%.

Bangalore is always playing catch-up, which is why this city's infrastructure is already creaking under the existing demands
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, chief executive, Biocon

The airport has cost $600m (307m) to build.

It was due to begin operations on March 30, but was told by the Indian government that it needed to postpone its opening until May because government airport workers needed more time to learn their new roles.

Rally planned

Now there could be new challenges to face.

"There are serious capacity concerns and the city is not future proofed with the plans Bangaluru International Airport have in place," the group opposed to the closing of the old airport said in a statement.

"The current demand figures of 10.5 million passengers per year are way over the expected numbers in the original projections, estimated at less than 7 million a year."

A rally is planned for Saturday at the site of Bangalore's old airport.

Prominent members of Bangalore's business community are expected there, including Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, chief executive of Biocon, one of the country's largest pharmaceutical firms.

"The new airport will not be able to handle the demands of the growth in this city's industries," she told the BBC.

"Bangalore is always playing catch-up, which is why this city's infrastructure is already creaking under the existing demands."

"We are expecting to grow much more in the future. We need to keep the second airport open."

Losing money

But the operators of the new airport say that under the terms of the original agreement, Bangalore's old airport has to close.

"The delays are costing us $250,000 a day," the chief executive of BIAL told the BBC on 4 May.

"We are not responsible for the accessibility or building the roads - that's the responsibility of the state government."

The government, for its part, has decided that the old airport will close for now.

But it is also facing state elections this month and listening to its citizens' concerns will be a top priority.

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