T2 Mumbai: The new gateway

N. S. Vageesh Mumbai | Updated on January 10, 2014

Mumbai’s new terminal can handle 40 million passengers annually

Indian airports provide foreigners their first introduction to India and its chaos, crowds, dirt, noise and disorganisation. In a way, the culture shock at the terminal helps them hit the ground running. That shock is now going to be slightly delayed in Mumbai, thanks to T2, the city’s new airport terminal.

If anything, the swanky terminal will become a frame of reference in conversations about the world’s best airports.

The terminal was built at a cost of Rs 5,500 crore and is part of the Rs 12,500- crore Mumbai airport modernisation project.

As befits a major gateway, there are 208 check-in counters, 76 immigration counters for arriving passengers and 60 for those leaving the country.

Optimal use of land

Nowhere else in the country is land as precious as it is in Mumbai. The design incorporates the need to optimise space while also providing the dimensions for expansion. This is characteristic of many construction projects in the city, whether it is a foyer or a flyover.

In comparison with other airports in India and those abroad, the Mumbai airport has far less space – 1,400 acres against about 30,000 acres for Kuala Lumpur or even Delhi’s 5,100 acres.

Space constraints meant that about 100 buildings in the airport complex had to be demolished and built anew in line with a new design that would remove inefficiencies.

However, encroachment by slums in surrounding areas continues to have an impact, as reflected in the two intersecting runways, which limit the number of flights in an hour.

Art Attack

The leitmotif for the terminal and its interiors is the peacock. From the pillars to the ceiling, the screens to the counters, the theme is everywhere.

If you have to check in for an international flight and have many hours to kill, T2 has an art walk in store for you. It features a montage of paintings, sculptures and other works of art sourced from every part of the country, and spread over 3 km, on four levels. “It has exceeded my expectations,” says G.V. Sanjay Reddy, Vice-Chairman of GVK Power & Infrastructure Ltd, the developer of the terminal, with quiet pride.

The GVK team had to deal with intense pressure to make the terminal happen, including demands from politicians, bureaucrats, airline officials, regulatory bodies, terminal staff and vendors.

Something as innovative as a common lounge for the first-class passengers of all airlines (on a pay and use basis) saw considerable resistance from many airlines. However, Reddy refused to budge and eventually prevailed.

The project was also delayed by more than a year because of the need to shift a statue of Shivaji. Here, too, Reddy managed to build a consensus.

Passenger traffic, currently at 30 million a year, is expected to touch 40 million in a few years. The terminal’s capacity can touch 45 million with some adjustments.

So, what happens if this capacity is achieved in five years? Well, there is talk of building a new airport in Navi Mumbai.

How will that affect this airport? Reddy is cautiously optimistic. He sees the new airport, when it comes up, as being complementary and GVK bidding for it.

Published on January 10, 2014

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