To provide a major boost to air connectivity in the Northeast, 92 new routes will be opened in the region in the second round of the government's 'Udaan' scheme, Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha said in Imphal on Tuesday.
Sinha also announced a direct bi-weekly Air India flight from Delhi to Imphal from January next year, which he said would be made a daily service when the demand picks up. No-frills private airlines Indigo will soon start services from Guwahati to Silchar and Aizwal, he said. He also announced that Spicejet will be procuring seaplanes that could seat 9-10 passengers and land on smaller airstrips.
"The carrier is buying a large number of these seaplanes and is looking to operate in the Northeast, connecting smaller airstrips. These planes will accommodate about 9-10 people. This will also improve connectivity in the Northeast," Sinha said. He was speaking at the inaugural session of the 'North East Development Summit', a two-day event organised by India Foundation, a think tank with links to the BJP, and the Government of Manipur.
Sinha also informed that the construction of the Pakyong airport in Sikkim is complete and it will make reaching the northern part of the state, especially tourist attractions such as Nathu La Pass, easier. The second round of bidding for Udaan scheme is in its final stages, he said. "With this bidding round, we have 92 new routes that are going to be started in the Northeast," Sinha said.
Udaan is a regional connectivity scheme under which the government plans to provide connectivity to remote areas and enhance access in under-served regions. The scheme has enabled the government to add 30 new airports on the aviation map in tier-2 and tier-3 cities under the first round. The second round of bidding commenced in August. The civil aviation ministry has received as many as 141 initial proposals for operating flight and helicopter services on 502 routes, connecting 126 airports and helipads.
He said that there are 19 "new airports or underserved airports", and among these airports such as More in Manipur, Rupsi in Assam, and Tura in Meghalaya are going to get air services. "Nineteen new airports and seven heliports that are going to be added to the aviation network. There are 26 new airports (that are going to be) added through Udaan round 2. The bidding processes are underway," he said.