Kerala's fourth international airport at Kannur would open in December 2015, the minister in charge of the project said Saturday.
Seven companies have been shortlisted in the pre-qualification bid for building the airport, which is coming up in an area of around 2,000 acres and is expected to cost Rs.1,700 crore.
"The technical bid would be submitted by these selected firms and after elimination, the financial bid would be asked for and we expect to ink the work agreement with the selected company in September. The work will begin in October and the first aircraft will touch down in December 2015," Excise and Shipping Minister K. Babu told IANS.
Kerala today has three international airports at Kozhikode, Kochi and capital Thiruvananthapuram.
Visualised first in 1996 by the then chief minister E.K. Nayanar, who hails from the northern district of Kannur, successive governments had approved the project. In 2010, the V.S. Achuthanandan government had laid the foundation stone for the airport.
"At the moment work is progressing in levelling the land as it requires cutting of the earth at some places and filling of the land in other places. This itself will cost Rs. 400 crore," Babu, who is monitoring the progress on a day-to-day basis, said.
The airport is coming up under the public-private initiative and a company Kannur International Airport Limited (KIAL) has been formed.
The equity holding of the airport includes 26 per cent by the state government, 23 per cent by state and central public sector units, two per cent by INKEL (Infrastructures Kerala Limited, a Kerala government company). The remaining 49 percent would be private participation for which shares have already been floated.
"We have also earmarked 10 acres of land in the airport to the defence ministry for which would be for their use," added Babu.
The proposed airport will come as a boon for the large number of non-resident Keralites in the districts of Kannur and Kasargode who now have to travel to either Kozhikode or Mangalore.
According to a study, close to 1.5 million passengers would use this airport and it would handle 86,000 tonnes of cargo a year.