The Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), which is facing a financial crunch in constructing the Mumbai-Nagpur Expressway, has decided to ask the Indian Air Force (IAF) to bear the cost of building four emergency airstrips on the proposed 701-km road. The MSRDC will write to the defence ministry seeking funding of Rs600 crore for the airstrips.
According to a senior MSRDC official, the IAF has expressed interest in having runways on the expressway. It has already cleared construction of airstrips on 12 of the 228 national highways. Emergency airstrips are important in case key airfields are rendered out of service during a war or in case of a natural disaster.
Countries known to have emergency airstrips on highways include China, Germany, Sweden, Pakistan, and Singapore. The strips would be a first in Maharashtra.
The official said airstrips on the expressway are not mandatory, however, if the IAF is keen on emergency airstrips then it should contribute to it. The estimated cost of a strip, with specific build parameter, is Rs150 crore. “The IAF has shown interest in having airstrips, but we are very clear that the IAF should pay for the construction of these four runways,” said a senior MSRDC official.
Apart from the cost of construction, the MSRDC official said additional infrastructure and the recruitment of staff to manage the 3-4km stretch is also the IAF’s responsibility. “These additional costs, too, have to be borne by the IAF because we are an engineering company and don’t understand the technicalities of aviation,” he said.
On October 24, 16 IAF planes performed breathtaking landings and touch-and-go manoeuvres on a stretch of the Lucknow-Agra Expressway. In May 2015, the IAF successfully landed a Mirage-2000 on the Yamuna Expressway near Mathura as part of its trials to use national highways for an emergency landing by fighter aircraft.
The proposed expressway is expected to have six lanes along with an two additional service roads. The entire corridor is expected to cut down travel time Mumbai and Nagpur to 10 hours from the current 16-18 hours.
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