Regional connectivity scheme to be finalised by August

New Delhi, July 29 (IANS) The government on Friday said that its regional connectivity scheme (RCS) which intends to provide air connectivity to unserved and remote routes will be finalised by next month.

“We have called for feedback from all stakeholders by July 31. The final scheme is expected by the middle of August,” Civil Aviation Secretary Rajeev Nayan Choubey said at an event here.

Choubey spoke after a workshop and consultations seminar — a national level meet with stakeholders of the regional connectivity scheme — was organised by the Ministry of Civil Aviation here.

The workshop was attended by representatives of state governments, airlines, airport operators, chopper services providers, aircraft manufactures, industry associations and regulatory bodies among others.

The RCS is a key component of the recently passed National Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP), whose main objective is to “enhance regional connectivity through fiscal support and infrastructure development”.

The draft policy intends to grow regional connectivity via several measures such as incentives, capping of air fares for a limited number of seats and revival of existing air strips and airports.

At the same event Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha said the RCS is in pursuance of the government’s objective of taking development and infrastructural facilities to the common man in all parts of the country.

The civil aviation secretary pointed out that a list of 390 airports and airstrips under the RCS was provided to the airline sector.

He said that currently most of air traffic is concentrated only on 12 routes and that there is ample potential to expand the aviation sector’s reach.

“We are growing at 22 per cent, afer this scheme is implemented we will be able to grow at a much faster rate,” Choubey said.

According to the civil aviation secretary, all state governments and other stakeholders have welcomed the scheme and no one has objected to the proposal to cap the maximum airfare limit.

The passenger fares under the RCS have been proposed to be capped at Rs 2,500 per hour of flying of approximately 500 km.

During the meet, stakeholders suggested some changes to the draft RCS proposals which included extending the three-year viability gap funding (VGF) period for airlines and relaxation in the range of the scheme on a case to case basis.

The scheme is envisaged to be applicable on route length between 200 to 800 km.

The RCS is expected to support airlines by providing direct financial support namely VGF, which would be given to the interested airlines to kick off operations to an unserved or underserved airport. It is also expected to keep the passenger fares affordable.

Another proposal from a northeast state called for the central government to bear the entire cost of the scheme.

The scheme has been proposed to be provided monetary support through a “regional connectivity fund” (RCF). A levy on certain domestic flights will be funnelled to the RCF.

Under the scheme, the partner state governments would also have to contribute a 20 per cent share to the fund, whereas the northeastern states would need to give only 10 per cent share towards the RCF.

The civil aviation secretary said that the government is simultaneously working on another scheme to revive 60 airports.

Of these 60 airports to be revived through central government funds, 10 are owned by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) and the rest belong to state governments.

The ministry plans to harmonise the two schemes under the overall umbrella of NCAP.

–IANS

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