At a meeting chaired by Collector A Shanmuga Sundaram and attended by Chennai AAI Regional Executive Director (RED) R Madhavan at Vellore on Wednesday, officials were bluntly told to expedite airport work so that it became operational at the earliest.
The airport mooted to connect Chennai-Vellore-Tirupathi in both directions was sanctioned under the central government’s UDAN RCS (Regional Connectivity Scheme) but ran into rough weather due to repeated delays by the state government in building a kilometre-long road on the airport perimeter.
Presently the airport is divided into two by the Abdullapuram–Asanambut road which runs right in the middle with the runway on one side and the terminal buildings on the other. To join both sides and also ensure that locals travelling to Anaicit and Asanambut were not affected, the idea of a perimeter road was mooted more than a year ago. Initial glitches in getting 55 acres land from the district administration were ironed out after which the Erode based contractor found the going slow due to delays in the perimeter road construction despite the runway being extended to 850 metres in time.
Moreover, work trailed at a snail’s pace for more than six months due to the pandemic. Initial resistance from locals to the facility was overcome by officials. The work was further prolonged due to officials being unable to pinpoint the exact location where the perimeter road was to be laid.
Meanwhile, locals also wondered whether the airport would be viable as Chennai is only two hours away by road and costs less than the flight charge. Even if the flight reached Chennai in 30 minutes, getting out of Chennai airport and reaching the destination would be equal to the same amount of time if one travelled by road, locals said.
The facility was expected to meet the needs of the Tirupattur district-based leather industry as also Vellore’s CMC hospital, VIT university and tourists visiting the Vellore golden temple at Sripuram.